Trump has made a living insulting journalists and threatening their news organizations. Now, he’s getting sued for it. The president is allowed to insult the press and evade its questions, even call their reports “fake news” as much as he wants—but he can’t use his power to stifle it. That’s exactly what Trump has been doing, and the grounds on which three organizations are pursuing legal action. The CEO of one of those organizations, Suzanne Nossel of PEN America, went to Politico to explain how the president is directly impeding the nation’s first amendment right to freedom of the press.
Trump suggests taking away press credentials from any reporters he deems “fake news.” Some reporters have even been removed from events for asking what the White House calls “impertinent” questions. We may have become accustomed to his casual threats, but they’re echoing beyond those press events. He’s emboldened his supporters so much that they’ve gone so far as sending journalists death threats.
Yet it goes even deeper. Trump’s unique position of being both a businessman and the president gives his threats weight. Look no further than his fuming hatred for CNN. When its parent company, Time Warner, sought to merge with AT&T, Trump himself said he’d block the deal, for no reason other than pettiness. His administration doggedly followed the orders. The court intervened and said that its motives weren’t based in fact—no surprise, coming from Trump. The deal went through in spite of his efforts.
Later, after lashing out at The Washington Post, the President went for its owner, Jeff Bezos, by attacking Amazon. Vox reports that Trump pressured the US Postmaster General to increase shipping rates for the company by two times what it’s been paying. He then proceeded to sign an executive order to review those rates to gouge the company, all as part of his selfish vendetta. Slimy though Amazon may be, the President is using his executive powers to push his personal agenda.
It’s because of that sort of abuse of power that PEN America, Protect Democracy and the Yale Law School Media Freedom and Information Clinic are teaming up to sue Trump.
This is far from the first time the president has faced legal action. When he tried to enforce his infamous “Muslim ban,” Harvard, Yale and Stanford worked together to sue Trump, claiming their ability to educate future leaders was being impeded upon. Per The Independent, that didn’t totally eliminate the ban, but it did allow passage for anyone in possession of a green card.
If this particular lawsuit moves forward, Trump’s rhetoric could finally be forced to change. He’s proven time and time again that he ignores and stamps out the truth—let’s see if he notices this.