The Trump administration’s quest to squash the free press has taken yet another step towards fascism. This time, the White House finds itself in COINTELPRO territory by going beyond their legal threats to revoke the broadcasting license of TV stations that play anti-Trump ads and executive orders aimed to disrupt his opposition. In a disconcerting revelation, the White House admitted that they are compiling “very large” dossiers on American journalists who dare to question Trump’s actions and falsehoods, calling them a “disgrace to journalism and the American people.
The main target of these counter-journalism efforts is the Washington Post’s David Farenthold. The article that triggered all of this was an investigative piece done by Farenthold and his colleagues Josh Dowsey and Joshua Partlow. In it, the journalists outline “how Trump’s company charged the U.S. government more than $900,000.”
This is not Farenthold’s first high profile piece exposing Trump for one of his many questionable actions. In 2017, he won the Pulitzer Prize in Journalism “for persistent reporting that created a model for transparent journalism in political campaign coverage while casting doubt on Donald Trump’s assertions of generosity toward charities.”
Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere lashed out against the Washington Post in a statement, accusing the outlet of “blatantly interfering with the business relationships of the Trump Organization” before demanding that said interference stop. He then went on to say, “Please be advised that we are building up a very large ‘dossier’ on the many false David Fahrenthold and others stories as they are a disgrace to journalism and the American people.” When pressed by CNN Business to expand on the nature of the dossier, he declined.
Trump Thinks Free Press is “Disgusting” and is Trying to do Something About it.
Compiling dossiers on Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists is simply an escalation in a disturbing trend. Trump has had a vendetta against the media, attempting to discredit outlets, trying to override the White House Correspondent’s Association so he can avoid certain outlets, and shouting “fake news!” as often as he can on his way to the “tsunami of untruths” he has unloaded on the American people.
It seems like Trump is trying to follow up on his discussion with Vladimir Putin and actually “Get rid of [journalists]” before relishing in his catch-phrase, saying “Fake news is a great term, isn’t it?” What makes that little exchange so horrifying is that 21 Russian journalists have been murdered since Putin began his oppressive regime in 2000.
The battle between Trump and the free press has been an ongoing one throughout his term. He has not been shy about his stance, saying in 2017 that it is “frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write.” He even had to be reminded by the personalities on his beloved Fox News that they are a news outlet and not his personal propaganda machine, a fact that he was not happy with.
The ACLU has done a great job of cataloging Trump’s anti-free speech and anti-freedom of press actions as they remind us that “his attacks on the press that amount to an assault on the cornerstone of American democracy: the First Amendment.” As time goes on, his attacks have become more brazen and are becoming increasingly more threatening to the freedom of the press.
A legitimate free press has been a fundamental part of American culture since its founding. Without it, this country will not be the same and could very well become irreparably damaged. If Trump truly wanted to make America great again, he would leave the press alone.