“If it were left to me to decide whether we should have a government without a free press or a free press without a government, I would prefer the latter.” Founding father Thomas Jefferson said this about the First Amendment. The fact that the Framers of the Constitution included freedom of the press in the Bill of Rights is telling; it was (and certainly still is) considered absolutely essential to a democratic society. A free press informs the public about both sides of an issue without government interference. The fourth estate effectively serves as another check and balance to our three branches of government, acting as a watchdog to those in power.
On Feb. 24, reporters from the New York Times, CNN, the Los Angeles Times, Politico, and Buzzfeed were barred from the office of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, while other news outlets were permitted access. That same day, President Donald Trump called the media “the enemy of the American people”, adding that they distribute “fake news” during a conservative rally outside of Washington D.C.
“They say that we can’t criticize their dishonest coverage because of the First Amendment, you know, they always bring up the First Amendment,” Trump said.
Yes, Mr. President. Journalists “always bring up the First Amendment.” Maybe you should read it to figure out why.
This administration’s condemnation of the press is nothing new. These attacks have been coming with such regularity during the campaign and now into Trump’s presidency, it’s hard to keep track of them all. What is concerning, however, isn’t that the White House calls us names, but that the administration decides that any negative coverage or anything they disagrees with is “fake”.
The funny thing about facts is that they are true whether or not you personally agree with them, whether or not those facts may present you in a negative light. Facts are indisputable. Facts are the responsibility of journalists.
I understand that we live in a tense political climate. It has become too easy to dismiss another person because they do not agree with you. It has become too easy to label someone ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ without a thought. But the truth matters regardless of your political affiliation. This is something that, until Feb. 24, Sean Spicer seemed to agree with.
“Conservative, liberal or otherwise, I think that’s what makes a democracy a democracy versus a dictatorship,” Spicer said in a Dec. interview with Politico, where he also stated that Trump would never ban a media outlet from the White House.
Isn’t that interesting?
The First Amendment can be exasperating for those in power. But that is inconsequential. A free press is the foundation of democracy and no journalist should be prevented from entering the White House (or any other government building) simply based on the administration’s false “fake news” narrative. The truth is never a partisan issue.