Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential bid has been marred by controversy. While the media has put much of the spotlight on his arguably racist rhetoric, short temper, and leaked audio recordings, they seemingly gloss over one recurring theme of the Trump campaign: hostility towards the First Amendment, specifically towards free speech and freedom of the press. The Trump campaign has revoked press credentials and threatened multiple media outlets with lawsuits. Let’s take a closer look at how significantly Donald Trump threatens free speech.
Free Speech and the First Amendment
Simply put, the First Amendment states:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The First Amendment prohibits ratifying laws respecting an establishment of religion and protects free exercise of religion, free speech, the right to assemble peacefully, petitioning the government to address grievances, and freedom of the press.
How Donald Trump Threatens Free Speech
Donald Trump has consistently employed a couple of tactics to attempt to silence his critics in the media. Here are the two troubling tactics:
Revoking Press Credentials
The laundry list of media outlets that have had their press credentials revoked shows exactly how Donald Trump threatens free speech. These outlets include major publications such as The Washington Post, Politico, and The Huffington Post. Of course, there is no denying that these media outlets have been extremely critical of Trump. In Trump’s defense, some of the articles published by these media outlets are exceptionally petty criticisms, including the time The Huffington Post wrote an article criticizing Trump for the way he eats pizza and fried chicken.
However, that does not excuse Trump’s attempt to censor his critics. Trump’s tactic of revoking the press credentials of media outlets who criticize him goes against the spirit of the First Amendment and the freedom of the press to report the news. It’s also an entirely worthless effort on Trump’s part. Media outlets such as The Washington Post were not going to stop criticizing Trump simply because he revoked their credentials. If anything, it inspired The Washington Post and others to turn up the dial against Trump. At the very least, the credential revocation serves as content fodder for the media outlet, which increases traffic and revenue for the media outlet.
Threatening to Sue Media Outlets
Donald Trump’s second critic-silencing tactic is the threat of lawsuit. It’s logical to assume that this tactic would be somewhat effective considering Trump’s vast wealth and resources to be able to pursue a long legal battle. Trump has used this tactic in 2016 to try and silence his critics in the media. So far, there have been at least two notable examples this election cycle:
- Donald Trump threatened to sue The Washington Post for writing a piece about a Trump casino in Atlantic City that went bankrupt in 1991. In reference to writing a piece about the casino, Trump said, “If you write this one, I’m suing you.”
- More recently, Donald Trump has threatened to sue The New York Times over an article about Trump making unwanted advances on women. This prompted an immediate response from The New York Times and the lawyer who would be representing the media outlet if Trump’s pursued a libel case.
Although none of these proposed lawsuits have manifested into an actual court case, the thought that a presidential candidate would propose baselessly suing some of the most respected media outlets in the country is a scary thought. How far would a President Trump take it? Would he propose state run media?
Make No Mistake: Donald Trump Threatens Free Speech
Trump’s consistent attempts to silence his critics, despite the validity of their claims, demonstrates both the thinness of his skin and his lack of respect for the First Amendment. The media has a duty to report on current events and provide the public with vital information. Trump’s eagerness to censor unfavorable reports of his past and present actions should raise concern among any content creator who passionately reports the news.