We knew this day was coming. The day President Trump’s unAmerican war on the free press would take a dangerous turn.
After years of rallies and Twitter rants calling journalists the “enemy of the people,” many have grown numb to the way the president demeans and disrespects the press. And it is both notable and infuriating that the last, official, daily White House press briefing took place over a year ago, on March 11, 2019.
Maybe the president feels outmatched by the White House press corps. Maybe he would prefer to skip the “nasty questions” asked by women like PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor and answer directly to us, the electorate. Maybe he thinks we would ask less “nasty” questions. Here are few that come to mind.
1. Why did you refuse the coronavirus texts from the World Health Organization? We want to know why you refused a test that might have saved the lives of our families and neighbors. What was your rationale for such a decision? Where are the tests?
2. You are stoking racist, xenophobic fears by calling this the Chinese virus. What does this accomplish? Are we not all terrified enough? You used to call it the coronavirus like everyone else. Why the sudden change?
3. My dad is a retired, Frito Lay, delivery driver. He voted for you in 2016, but has grown tired of your hateful, misleading rhetoric. He voted for you because you said you were a good businessman, and he’s scared now that the stock market is crashing. What are you doing to save his retirement?
4. You claim to be a religious man. You even declared March 15 National Prayer Day. And yet you recently mocked Speaker Pelosi’s comments about prayer, you play golf most Sundays, and we have never once heard you offer up a prayer of well-wishes for anyone. How do you explain this?
5. We are exhausted. We are scared. But instead of offering support to our local leaders with their coronavirus efforts, you have publicly disparaged governors of New York, Oregon, California, and Michigan. In the words of Adlai Stevenson, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”
Donald Trump has been our president for almost four years, and what do we have to show for it but a daily Twitter feed filled with the rantings of a childish, fearful, incompetent narcissist who cannot be bothered to answer the press’s most basic questions without calling them the enemy.
If you want to assess the fallout of this president’s years-long attack on the credibility of the free press, look no further than small, Trump-voting counties like mine. On March 16, I was scanning The Anderson New’s Facebook page for the latest, local business closings and instructions. I read a comment from a man named Hank: “Just doing minor bit of research will tell anyone that there are flu viruses out there way more serious then this strain. But the media has many in a follow me over the cliff mentality. Oh look we’re relevent again. bs.”
A man named Adam wrote: “People get sick and die. That’s life. This has been completely overblown.” I click on Adam’s name. His profile photo shows a boy holding a “Trump 2020: Keep America Great” sign.
In May 2018, “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl told PBS’s Judy Woodruff the president explained why he continually attacks the press. “He said you know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all, so when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.”
This president’s war on the free press—his war on facts, information, and the truth—was never about the press at all. It was a war on us. On our freedom of thought. On our press’s freedom to ask hard questions and demand answers, especially in a time of crisis. Like now.
Hang in there, friends.