Actually, it is a journalist’s duty to “make themselves the news” when Trump attacks the free press
To call the media industry’s rebuke of President Trump’s recent actions toward CNN journalist Jim Acosta “grandstanding” is to disregard American democracy. On Wednesday, November 7th, Trump and Acosta got into a heated exchange during a press conference post-midterms. When Acosta asked the president a follow-up question regarding the Russia investigation, Trump refused to answer him and summoned a female intern to remove Acosta’s microphone. The intern grabbed for the mic while Acosta continued asking his follow-up question.
A day later, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a statement saying that Jim Acosta’s press pass had been revoked, citing Acosta “placing his hands on a young woman” as the reason. She continued by reinforcing that said “conduct is absolutely unacceptable.” How convenient it is to falsely accuse Acosta of “placing his hands on a woman” during the Me Too movement, while using a doctored video from conspiracy site InfoWars—just as the president is veering his office into autocracy. It speaks to the lowness of this administration and its utter disregard for truth.
Today, while speaking to reporters, Trump suggested that other journalists’ hard passes may be revoked as well. And amidst it all, we have conservative politicians posturing nonsense about why journalists shouldn’t need to defend the very nature of their jobs, as protected by the First Amendment. After Trump’s actions earlier this week, Senator Marco Rubio shared his thoughts on Twitter. He doesn’t believe the “media” should be making this about them. Fascinating stuff.
Rubio’s belief that journalists should cover the news and not “be the news” is, in most contexts, a true statement.
But when a president receives tough questioning from a journalist about an ongoing investigation into the legitimacy of his presidency, and that president revokes said journalist’s press pass as a means to block his access, then making that story “the news” is the only option.
That is, of course, unless Rubio and those who agree with him don’t appreciate the First Amendment—and we know that to be untrue because Rubio referenced it himself.
It’s clear that the president feels he is above answering questions he finds incongruous with his personal goals. Unfortunately for him, achieving personal goals is not the responsibility of the president, nor are First Amendment rights up to his discretion—though he has let us know many times that he finds the free press “disgusting” and considers media to be the “enemy of the people.”
Fortunately for Americans, journalists are not backing down, but it’s not hard to predict who Trump will go after next.
We all know how Trump feels about women—ready to “grab ’em by the pussy” at any moment and accused of sexual assault numerous times. And now, more than ever, we’re seeing his disdain toward constitutionally protected female journalists: They’re “nasty,” his favorite term for the gender, and “stupid” for not asking the questions he wants.
As long as female journalists were smiling and shutting up, the president was happy, even flirting with them at times. But when women journalists, politicians or otherwise act in ways opposite his wishes, the vitriolic Trump comes right back. When ABC News’s Cecilia Vega asked about Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation in October, Trump insulted her by saying, “You’re not thinking. You never do.”
This week, when PBS NewsHour‘s Yamiche Alcindor asked about white supremacists conflating Trump’s pronouncement of being a “nationalist” with being a “white nationalist,” the president barked back, “It’s a racist question.” Today, he called April Ryan a “loser who doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing,” and when Abby D. Phillip asked Trump how the Mueller investigation would continue, he responded, “What a stupid question that is.” Considering the white nationalism we’ve seen expressed in the Trump administration, it’s important to note that all three of these women reporters—harassed just this week—are Black women.
To refer to the president’s behavior towards journalists as an ongoing trend is an understatement. This is Trump’s standard operating procedure. When it comes to the sanctity of the First Amendment, he has no interest. And I’m sorry to say that we’ll see more proof of this soon.