There’s nothing fake about the real threat that Donald Trump poses to the freedom of the press in this country.
President Trump took an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That same Constitution includes an amendment protecting the people’s ability to petition government, to speak freely for or against it, to worship without fear of persecution, and to report and publish on the events of the day.
Yet Trump, on an almost daily basis, attacks the Constitution and our rights, as John Adams once said, “to read, to think, to speak and to write” as people in a free society. He sees the press as threats to his power — even though the press is just doing its job reporting on what’s happening in government.
He’s not the first politician to openly dislike the press — God knows we’ve seen plenty of those in New York City through the years — but he’s the first sitting president to actively chip away at our collective credibility.
Trump can’t handle the truth, so he whips out that garbage “fake news” line every chance he can. When Trump says the news is fake, what he’s really doing is seeking to create an alternate reality to the one in which we all live.
It’s the same tactic used by strongmen throughout the ages — Mussolini, Castro, Saddam, Chavez, Duterte, Erdogan, Putin, just to name a few — to squash opposition and achieve absolute power.
And whenever he uses that “fake news” term, he’s attacking all of us in the press — including community newspapers.
Every day, we work hard to report the truth to our readers about what’s happening in their neighborhoods. Along the way, we have to clear through a torrent of bureaucratic hurdles to get the facts on everything from potholes to prison reform, homeless shelters to affordable housing, and so many other issues.
Readers call or email us every week with tips on news items, and often, they come to us having already reported their problems to the city or state governments — but without having received any response or solution to their concerns.
Who will bring attention to the problems we experience every day if the press isn’t there to report it? Who will hold government accountable for inaction, corruption and poor decisions if the press isn’t there to shed light on them?
Do you honestly believe that a state-run media would ever let you know the truth about anything?
Today, Aug. 16, we proudly stand with the more than 350 news organizations nationwide participating in an editorial campaign led by The Boston Globe, designed to deliver a message to Trump, to our readers and to the American people:
“We are not the enemy of the people.”
Trump wants you to believe otherwise because it advances his agenda, rooted in totalitarianism. It can happen here in the United States, but only if we allow Trump to get away with it. Merely dismissing or ignoring his comments isn’t good enough — they must be denied and condemned by all of us as Americans, regardless of party or political belief.
Because Twitter seems to be one of the few things to which this president pays attention, we want our readers to tweet at the president, @realDonaldTrump, the following:
“Stop attacking the press and stop dividing our country. We know the press is not our enemy, and nothing you can say or do will ever change that. #FreePress”
If you aren’t on Twitter, or would simply prefer to send that message in writing, send it electronically by visiting https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact, or mail it to the President, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C., 20500.
This editorial first appeared in the Press’ sister publication, the Queens Courier.