US newspapers in mass pushback against Trump

The online edition of The Boston Globe with the headline, "Journalists are not the enemy", yesterday. It was one of many US media outlets that criticised Mr Trump's attacks on the media.
The online edition of The Boston Globe with the headline, "Journalists are not the enemy", yesterday. It was one of many US media outlets that criticised Mr Trump's attacks on the media.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

They denounce his constant attacks on the press, even as he labels them 'the opposition party' in latest tweet

Led by the influential Boston Globe, almost 350 American newspapers published simultaneous independent editorials in a coordinated pushback against President Donald Trump, who has characterised the media as "enemies of the people".

Among them was Kansas City's Topeka Capital-Journal, one of the few newspapers to have endorsed Mr Trump during the 2016 presidential election campaign, calling him "the wisest choice to lead our nation going forward" at the time. Yesterday, it headlined its editorial, "President Trump, we're not 'enemies of the people'. End your war on our free press."

Probably not a single public rally by Mr Trump goes by without him pointing at the media pen and deriding journalists as "disgusting people". Last month, he tweeted that the "fake news media" was the "real enemy of the people".

Yesterday morning, he was on a rampage again, tweeting: "The fake news media is the opposition party. It is very bad for our great country... But we are winning!"

He has targeted the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC and the Washington Post, and sometimes even named journalists.

Conversely, Mr Trump regularly praises the conservative, Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox News, especially its hosts, such as the stridently pro-Trump Sean Hannity.

Egged on by Mr Trump and his insults, supporters at his rallies jeer at the media.

  • Excerpts of criticisms


    It's a remarkable, unprecedented moment. Frankly, it's scary. We're afraid, for our personal safety and for the future of our country. These attacks on the press are an attack on our nation's foundation.

    MERCURY NEWS (San Jose, California)


    Trump's references to us as the 'enemy of the American people' are no less dangerous because they happen to be strategic. That is what Nazis called Jews. It's how Joseph Stalin's critics were marked for execution.

    TOPEKA CAPITAL-JOURNAL (Kansas City, Missouri)


    Journalists are not the enemy of the people. We are the people. We live in the communities we cover and, just like everyone else, want those communities to succeed.

    DAILY LOCAL NEWS (West Chester, Pennsylvania)


    The American experiment in democracy finds itself in unprecedentedly perilous times. Since (President Donald Trump's) ascent to power, a free press has become more central to our nation's survival than ever, and has come under attack as never before.

    BRATTLEBORO REFORMER (Brattleboro, Vermont)


    News reporters and editors are human, and make mistakes. Correcting them is core to our job. But insisting that truths you don't like are 'fake news' is dangerous to the lifeblood of democracy. And calling journalists the 'enemy of the people' is dangerous, period.

    NEW YORK TIMES (New York)

Recently, several stood behind a CNN reporter shouting insults as he did a live report. Many journalists have admitted to worrying about their safety at such rallies.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, told The Guardian on Monday: "We began to see a campaign against the media… that could have potentially, and still can, set in motion a chain of events which could quite easily lead to harm being inflicted on journalists just going about their work and potentially some self-censorship. And in that context, it's getting very close to incitement to violence."

Mr Trump's near-constant attacks have had an effect.

"Everywhere in the country, any matter that an official doesn't want to talk about or that a reader doesn't want to hear about is 'fake news' now," the Topeka Capital-Journal wrote.

A recent poll by research firm Ipsos found that while 85 per cent of Americans agree that freedom of the press is essential for democracy, there is a wide partisan split.

Seventy-nine per cent of Republicans but only 11 per cent of Democrats agree that "the mainstream media treats President Trump unfairly". And 48 per cent of Republicans agree with the idea that "the news media is the enemy of the American people".

A Quinnipiac University poll released on Tuesday showed a higher split, with 51 per cent of Republicans identifying with the President's "enemy of the people" line.

"It would be naive to think that hardcore Trump supporters, including those who believe he should have autocratic powers to shut down certain media outlets, will be easily swayed," wrote Mr Michael Calderone, senior media reporter for Politico, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University, yesterday morning.

"Newspaper editorial boards in 2016 didn't persuade enough voters in key states to pick Hillary Clinton, who received the overwhelming number of endorsements," he wrote. "Today's show of solidarity could also reinforce views among some that the news media acts in opposition to Trump."

Mr Steve Herman, White House bureau chief of Voice of America, told The Straits Times: "It's been obvious from what has been witnessed inside the White House press briefing room that frustrations have boiled over. But it is also apparent the farther away from the White House I travel that there is a substantial portion of the American population that has no sympathy for the media and professes allegiance to the President in this battle."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2018, with the headline 'US newspapers in mass pushback against Trump'. Print Edition | Subscribe