PEN America Sues President Trump

Michelle Watson

PEN America (which stands for Poets, Playwrights, Essayists, and Novelists) filed a lawsuit against President Trump October 16, 2018.

They claim that Trump has repeatedly incited violence against the news media and that he has used his power and position to threaten the jobs and livelihood of reporters he does not like. The lawsuit also claims that Trump's administration tried to block the merger of Time Warner and AT&T simply because he did not like the coverage he received from CNN during the 2016 election. They claim the president's actions are an example of destructive power and liken him to Joseph Stalin. The entire lawsuit can be read here.

Let's look at some of these claims.

  1. Anyone paying attention knows that the media often misreports, or lies, whatever you choose to call it, things the president says. For example, on Sunday NBC News erroneously reported that Trump had touted General Robert E. Lee as a great general, only to have to retract their initial statement and admit that he was actually talking about General Ulysses S. Grant and his home state. We are thankful that they admitted their mistake, but why (and how) could they have made such a mistake to begin with?

  2. Is the president allowed to decide who is in the White House Press pool? Of course, he is. Freedom of the press does not mean "free access."

  3. The lawsuit, like many claims made by the press, states that President Trump has called the media the enemy of the people. This is not true. He has called the lies they tell, the things they make up as "fake news," the enemy of the people. Is he wrong? Does the public really benefit when the press lies about the number of people at a rally or a "riot"? Does the public really benefit when someone, whether intentionally or mistakenly, reports the president said something he didn't? Isn't fake news, no matter what the reason may be or how mistaken someone is, actually harmful to the people?

  4. Is being banned from a press conference really an abuse of power? Is removing a distracting member of the audience, or the press corps, really the same as acting like Stalin? That is a bit of an exaggeration, and quite frankly fake news, since Stalin would have had such dissidents shot on the spot.

Let's then look at what "fake news" means. Fake news is the uncanny ability of reporters to twist the news into what they want it to be, rather than what it is. There are many who seem intent on making President Trump (and all other republicans) look bad. They quote him out of context or only report on what they want him to have said. They pounce on any opportunity to point out how his statements fit their narrative that he is the worst bigot to ever enter the Oval Office. (A claim that many people of all walks of life have refuted repeatedly.)

Fake news is the opposite of truth in reporting. It is not what the founding fathers meant when they gave us freedom of the press in our Bill of Rights. In fact, it is the complete opposite of what they wanted. They wanted reporters to be able to tell the truth without fear of retaliation, not lies.


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