To the Editor:
I think of Thomas Jefferson’s words “Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press…” as I watch a few cable networks lament over President Trump “undermining freedom of the press” when he calls out fake news stories. One reporter went so far as to suggest that the president should simply state that he disagrees with them rather than calling their stories fake news. Is the president just in his comments?
Thinking back to 2016, it was the press that reported Hillary Clinton led in the polls by as much 13 points. It was freedom of speech that mocked Trump for suggesting that the election was rigged. Recently a post-Thanksgiving Day "Morning Joe" show turned out to be prerecorded and ABC’s Brian Ross reporting that Flynn was prepared to testify that Trump had instructed someone to reach out to the Russians caused the stock market to drop 350 points and there had been some speculation that some investors may have been hurt by the drop, though the market eventually recovered.
Malcolm X had noted that the media has the power to make the innocent look guilty and to make the guilty look innocent during the racial tensions of the 1950s and early 1960s. While I am a strong advocate of a free press and free speech as prescribed in the First Amendment, I remind the media of Justice Joseph Story’s Commentaries on the Constitution, Sec 1874, where he wrote “That this amendment was intended to secure to every citizen an absolute right to speak, or write, or print, whatever he might please, without any responsibility, public or private, therefor, is a supposition too wild to be indulged by any rational man. This would be to allow to every citizen a right to destroy, at his pleasure, the reputation, the peace, the property, and even the personal safety of every other citizen.”
It is indeed illegal to yell fire in a crowded movie theater and the media has no right to spew out unproven statements that adversely impact our daily lives and futures for their political pleasure. We are all entitled to our opinions, but, I along with the general public on both sides of the aisle, would very much appreciate it if reporters would start expressing their feelings in the op-ed pages and not express their views as factual headline news to sell more commercial airtime.