Presidential vendetta threatens individuals, institutions

Will Matar ’21

There’s a new grinch in town, though he might be orange, not green. As the New York Post reported Thursday, Dec. 13, President Trump has cancelled a decade-long tradition in the journalism community: the annual White House Christmas Party for the press. Despite the nonconformance to convention, this comes as no shock. Trump has made his broad-based war against so-called “fake news”––essentially any media outlet he doesn’t like––into a personal vendetta.

As the Post noted, Trump has also been avoiding events held by the press, such as the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, which he has missed two years in a row. But the broader story here is not just vengeance––it’s presidential behavior that threatens both individuals and institutions.

For instance, let’s take a look at the recent history of Trump’s war against CNN, which has degraded the Constitutional norms we hold sacred.

I believe the best way to do this is by looking at a specific, pertinent court case that examines the implications of the First Amendment in today’s world of politics: CNN v. The White House. Jim Acosta, a CNN journalist, announced on Twitter that he had his press pass for the White House taken away by the Secret Service following animosity between him and Trump. Following this, CNN announced they would be suing the White House––rightfully so––for the reinstatement of reporter Acosta’s press pass. This is completely necessary, as CNN’s First Amendment rights were taken away. Additionally, due to the White House’s overt violation of the right to due process, CNN’s counsel managed to get the press pass restored.

This is not the opinion of a minority, either. According to a New York Times report, The New York Times, Buzzfeed, NBC News, The Washington Post, Fox News, and many other groups all have voiced their support for Acosta and CNN. These groups that have spoken out include both liberal and conservative groups, further indicating that the White House has violated basic rights. These groups made the right decision when they banded together, and having something as huge as bipartisan support behind an event like this is revolutionary as it hasn’t happened in ages. When an event that forces groups to come together, you know it’s because they truly believe in it.

Following the decision of this case, the White House released a new set of rules for press briefings. The report from shows that now, reporters may only ask one question at a time before yielding to someone else and follow-up questions will be allowed only when permission from officials is given. If these rules aren’t followed, a journalist’s press pass may be suspended or taken away.. These rules were not made in coalition with the press corps, who say they took no part in crafting the new rules.

With these new rules in effect, it makes it so much harder for journalists to do good reporting. They run the risk of being kicked out if they ask a follow up question without the staff’s agreement, or if you simply as two questions instead of one. This is barbarous. We are a country that has foundations in free speech and this infringes upon the freedoms which we’ve worked for so long to get. It’s ridiculous.

Ever since Trump took office the rights of the press have gotten more and more restricted. It’s simply a growing trend that we need to continue to call him out on, because he doesn’t have the power to do this.