I watched in amusement as CNN White House Correspondent Jim Acosta threw a tantrum after he was heckled at a Trump rally in Tampa, Florida. He said he felt threatened and in danger. This despite the fact that no heckler made any personal threats, did not make any threatening moves or gestures, and did not try to enter the cordoned-off area where he was stationed.
He then tried to take Press Secretary Sarah Sanders to task over the incident, demanding that she say the press is not the enemy. Her response was classy, as usual. She simply outlined numerous recent incidents where the media has gone overboard with personal attacks on her and declined to accede to his demand. Acosta then stalked out of the briefing.
Keep in mind that CNN, with Acosta in the forefront, has waged a non-stop smear campaign thinly veiled as news against Trump from the time the election results were announced. What is obvious is that news media are very good at dishing out selective reporting, insults and often outright lies but are thin skinned when they are on the receiving end.
Free speech as affirmed in the First Amendment to the Constitution is a long standing and time honored right of U.S. citizens. So much so that the press, or news media, is given special privileges beyond that of a typical citizen. That includes the right to protect and not disclose information sources. The founders considered these rights to be essential to a free nation where the press could freely investigate and report on government and government officials.
However, along with the special rights given to the press comes additional responsibility. The press has the responsibility to report and disseminate their findings as accurately as possible. If they do not, their freedom of speech may then rise only to the level of that of an everyday citizen. This also includes the release of classified data.
There are also some exceptions to freedom of speech that have been determined by courts over the years. There are eight of these. First is incitement. This is speech that is intended to persuade people to engage in imminent unlawful conduct. An example might be a protester urging people to injure or kill others as part of the protest.
Another is false statements of fact. These may be punished if they are knowing lies and not honest mistakes. Many of today’s news reports are riding a fine line on this one.
The other exceptions are restrictions on obscenity child pornography, threats, fighting words, speech owned by others, and commercial advertising.
There is no doubt in the minds of many that today’s media have abandoned those principles. Reporting on Trump is over 90 percent negative despite tax cuts, renewed respect from world leaders, and an economy in an upswing. According to Pew Research, the media is three times more negative for Trump than Obama and more negative than any other recent President. This media appears more focused on personality traits and innuendo than accomplishments and fact.
It seems that the media moves in lock step over a new issue each week. Whether the issue of the day is former CIA Director Brennan having his security clearance revoked, former White House aide Omarosa, or some ginned-up immigration outrage, they all report the same story, usually with the same language and inferences that Trump is bad. They have published front page inaccuracies and sometimes outright lies with a straight face. If there is a rare apology or retraction it is buried several pages deep.
In fact, they are so biased that over 300 news outlets agreed to publish negative editorials on Trump on the same day. Isn’t that collusion? Don’t get me wrong, the news media outlets are privately owned and do have some leeway it what they print. However, this should be limited to editorial comments, not news reporting. News reports should be unbiased and free of political agenda.
For many years the media manipulated their agendas and supported their favored candidates through veiled writings and selective news reporting. They long ago abandoned the principles under which a free press is supposed to operate. It has only been since a President has been elected that is willing to take them on head on and consistently point out their hypocrisy that they have been forced to remove the veil. They no longer even pretend to be unbiased. And then the Jim Acosta’s of the media wonder why they are heckled.
Tom Riggins’ column appears every other Wednesday. He may be reached at email@example.com.