by Olivia Hamilton
At a February rally in Fort Worth, TX, Donald Trump claimed that if he won the presidential election, he would work to alter libel laws to make it easier to sue newspapers like The New York Times and Washington Post. He said, “We’re going to open up libel laws and we’re going to have people sue you like you’ve never got sued before.”
On May 31, Trump continued his attack on the press. He claimed the media is “unbelievably dishonest” and told an ABC reporter “You’re a sleaze.”
Trump’s attacks on the rights of the media go against the Constitution, particularly the First Amendment. By attacking the free press and pushing for libel laws that infringe on the media’s ability to report, Trump is attempting to limit core American freedoms.
In the 1970s, journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein broke the Watergate Scandal, exposing the Nixon administration’s role in the illegal break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters and subsequent cover-up. If Woodward and Bernstein had not been protected by the First Amendment, this corruption may have never been uncovered.
The role of the press is to inform the public, and sometimes informing the public involves publishing negative information and stories. Journalists have the right to publish articles that investigate Trump, or any other public figure. When Trump makes controversial statements, such as his recent claim that the judge in the Trump University lawsuit should be replaced due to his “Mexican heritage,” the press should be allowed to ask critical questions and report.
Trump’s desire to limit the protections of the First Amendment is dangerous not only to journalists but also to democracy. If Trump hopes to be president, he needs to respect the role of the press in critiquing the government.