The fact that Donald Trump employs not one, but two media chief executives, and tweets that he’s fighting the “dishonest and corrupt media” without irony is remarkable. Some would say it’s the mark of a true sociopath, who is able to integrate lies with complete cognitive dissonance.
I am not only fighting Crooked Hillary, I am fighting the dishonest and corrupt media and her government protection process. People get it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 14, 2016
Trump gives almost unfettered access to the media, while simultaneously making a big stink about banning them, banishing reporters, and publicly berating them at every opportunity. He’s obsessed with his own coverage, proudly showing Washington Post reporters Marc Fisher and Michael Kranish (who cowrote the soon-to-be-published book “Trump Revealed“) an entire conference room full of magazines with himself on the cover.
“I just discovered this,” he said, pointing at the conference table that took up most of the room. He swept his arm over the table, beckoning us to inspect. Every inch of the table’s surface was filled with stacks of magazines. “All from the last four months,” he said, and on every cover of every magazine, there he was, Donald J. Trump, smiling or waving or scowling or pouting, but always him.
Yes, Cheeto Jesus just happened to walk in to his conference room to find an orgy of evidence of his own narcissism; a grotto of self-worship, almost pornographic in its puerile opulence. “I just discovered this.” The eye-rolls must have been difficult for Fisher and Kranish to contain, thinking of the staffers who had to go out and assemble this carefully curated temple of Trump.
CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News cover every single Trump rally, sometimes cutting live. CNN frequently builds its schedule so not to miss a single word issuing from the pursed lips of Orange Bozo. ABC News devoted more air time to Trump than to the FBI’s notes about Hillary’s congressional testimony.
Trump has been the recipient of over $2 billion in free media. He has paid literally nothing, and has not bought any significant airtime, while Hillary Clinton is flooding the airwaves.
Over 70 percent of Trump’s campaign claims are found to be false by PolitiFact. Granted, PolitiFact, although purportedly neutral, is somewhat left-leaning, but still, Trump lies from the podium with metronomic regularity.
Now, there’s some context that’s necessary here. Trump was the most fact-checked of all the 2016 candidates. Of the 650 fact checks PolitiFact conducted, 158 were on Trump — good for 24 percent of the total. Hillary Clinton was fact-checked 120 times over that same period, approximately 18 percent of the total. As PolitiFact notes, the number of Trump fact checks is to be expected because “he made himself more available on television in the early part of his campaign than his Democratic or Republican rivals. Trump also participated in more debates (11 by our count) than either of the top Democratic contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.”
Yet, Trump has the audacity, insolence, effrontery, and unmitigated gall to tweet this:
It is not "freedom of the press" when newspapers and others are allowed to say and write whatever they want even if it is completely false!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 14, 2016
Cheeto Jesus really believes that he can lie his citrine-coiffed skull off every time he unhinges his jaw, but the press should be limited when they call him on it. The Bill of Rights, article the third, commonly known as 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.
One of the foundations of American liberty is that you can say what you want in the public square, especially in relation to politics. Garrett Epps captured this, writing in The Atlantic:
Under U.S. law, many falsehoods—even some deliberate lies—receive the full protection of the First Amendment. That is true even though “there is no constitutional value in false statements of fact,” as Justice Lewis Powell Jr. wrote for the Supreme Court in 1974. Nonetheless, the Court has often refused to allow government to penalize speakers for mistakes, sloppy falsehoods, and lies. Political lies are strongly protected; but even private lies sometimes are as well.
Imagine if you will, the following impossible scenario: Candidate X says of Candidate Y, “His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being—you know—shot. … That was reported, and nobody talks about it.”
Shouldn’t this ridiculous, petty, cruel, and destructive lie be punished?
Short answer: no (yes, it’s more complex, but, basically, no).
Epps goes on to cite the Ohio law that federal courts struck down which created a board to review campaign claims, and criminalized false statements about candidates or elections. Any law, or use of government power, that would in effect suppress political speech, is unconstitutional.
This is why Trump can say the absurd lies he utters and not worry about penalties. It’s also why the newspapers that cover him can write whatever they want and have equal protection. It’s also why Breitbart can make outlandish claims (worthy of the National Enquirer) about Hillary Clinton’s health and suffer no legal punishment. Speaking of the Enquirer, they can publish stories about Ted Cruz having five affairs without batting an eye.
Trump is not Hulk Hogan fighting Gawker for publishing sex videos. He is a serious (my God, I just wrote that) candidate for the highest office in the land, and the press has full latitude to write as they please.
What’s most troubling about Trump’s facile grip of the Constitution, is that, should he somehow win, he will do as he pleases, ignoring the rulings of the Supreme Court. If we take Trump at his word to be the “law and order” president, imagine what he will do when he discovers the incredible “police power” of the Federal government, that is, the power to ignore the Tenth Amendment and defy the judiciary. The very checks and balances of Federalism are nothing but obstacles to a man who claims “only I can fix.”
Trump has self-sabotaged to the point where he is seemingly beyond salvage to win. But if (and I mean if) he does win, we may be treated to a spectacle not seen since Bill Clinton, and before that, Andrew Johnson: the impeachment of Donald Trump. He may very well be the first president to be convicted and removed.