Editorial: Defending Unpopular Speech


When Donald Trump decided to revoke the Washington Post of press credentials in June due to its “dishonest” and “phony” coverage, the newspaper became the latest media organization to be blacklisted by the presidential candidate. The Post joined the likes of Politico, Univision, Huffington Post, Gawker, BuzzFeed, and the Des Moines Register—just to name a few.

Post executive editor Martin Baron responded in a statement: “Donald Trump’s decision to revoke the Washington Post’s press credentials in nothing less than a repudiation of the role of a free and independent press. When coverage doesn’t correspond to what the candidate wants it to be, then a news organization is banished.”

Organizations such as the Newspaper Association of America and the American Society of News Editors publicly condemned Trump’s decision to ban the Post.

“Candidate Trump’s move to sanction coverage of his drive to win the presidency is an unprecedented dismissal of the First Amendment freedoms essential to our democracy. The public is best served when a fearless, unfettered and independent press is present at all campaign events, speeches and political forums,” according to the statement from the ASNE.

NAA president and CEO David Chavern commented that Trump’s “treatment of journalists and the press isn’t just offensive or rude or political theater.  It is a danger to our Constitutional Rights.”

When Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan contacted Trump’s camp for further explanation of the ban, she didn’t receive a solid answer, but vowed she would keep trying to get Trump to answer her questions. She also noted that candidate Hillary Clinton has given no press conferences or very serious interviews during her presidential campaign.

“None of this bodes well for press access in 2017 and beyond,” Sullivan wrote.

And she’s right.

Press access is crucial, especially during a time where only 20 percent of Americans have confidence in newspapers (bit.ly/1Ua5RBQ). This “all-time low,” according to the Gallup poll, “marks the tenth consecutive year that more Americans have expressed little or no, rather than high, confidence in the institution.”

The uproar that occurred when Trump banned the Post made sense, but what about the Hulk Hogan lawsuit that resulted in Gawker Media’s bankruptcy? Filed by former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan (whose legal name is Terry Bollea), the lawsuit stemmed from a sex tape that was published on Gawker. In March, a judge awarded Hogan $115 million for economic harm, emotional distress and invasion of privacy, according to a New York Times report.

“Gawker got what was coming in a karmic sense,” criminal defense attorney and civil litigator Ken White wrote in the Los Angeles Times. But he also pointed out, “From a legal and constitutional perspective, even Gawker haters should be troubled by its fate.”

“We don’t need the (First) Amendment to defend popular speech, we need it to protect unpopular speech,” White wrote.

As this election year continues, I’m certain more “unpopular speech” will continue to be said from all sides. We need the press to document it, and we need to defend it. After the Post was banned, the York (Pa.) Dispatch’s editorial board actually challenged Trump to ban them as well (bit.ly/1UUMpTJ).

“We (believe) you’re acting like a spoiled-rotten child—the petty poster boy for why we need a strong Fourth Estate,” according to their editorial.  “A spoiled, foul-mouthed child, we might add. You’re so quick to insult other members of the media for doing their jobs—‘sleaze,’ ‘loser,’ ‘scum’ — yet never once have you singled out The York Dispatch. Let ‘er rip, Mr. Trump. We can take it.”

Now if that’s not unpopular speech, I don’t know what is.

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5 thoughts on “Editorial: Defending Unpopular Speech

  • August 5, 2016 at 6:00 am

    It’s probably too late for this but what if the media stopped covering Trump completely…? I know that argues with what we do and stand for but all we seem to be accomplishing now is playing into his overall game. Seems like we are puppets on his strings.

  • August 5, 2016 at 7:23 am

    Yes, Donald Trump’s petulance with the press is distressing and symptomatic of what is an immature bully who does not suffer close scrutiny well.
    However Clinton’s avoidance of the media altogether is at least as troubling because it is more calculated sweeping in scope. She does ‘t allow any news conferences.

  • August 5, 2016 at 9:51 am

    This dismissal of newspaper journalists isn’t just limited to the presidential candidates. It’s happening at the state and local levels as well, as many editors and reporters can attest. To maintain (or regain) our standing in the political world, we must do our jobs well, and with newsrooms around the nation cutting newsroom staffs, the quality and quantity of reporting has diminished (along with ad lines). it’s no surprise we’re starting to get pushed around. These people have never been our friends, but they used to respect us. If we don’t have reporters sticking their heads into offices at the statehouse and sitting in city council meetings, the people in power forget who we are – and, unfortunately, so do readers. We can protest the way they’re treating us, but the best way to regain respect from these people is to tell our readers who they are and what they’re doing – whether it be the local school board member or our U.S. senator. Serving our readers will go a long way to solving these problems, I think.

  • August 5, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    When most Americans are rejecting the two major candidates, shouldn’t the media at least reveal that there will be four candidates on the ballot?

    Even if 90% of a given story focuses on the latest misdeeds of Clinton and Trump, what would be wrong with just one small paragraph mentioning that Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are also running?

  • August 5, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    The story makes no mention of the reason for the ban – the leftist media’s extreme bias against conservative Republican candidates and it’s relentless bashing of them for political and Ideological reasons. Add that to it’s fawning support of liberal Democrats and its relentless coverups of their misdeeds. Newspapers have destroyed themselves via this transparent bias and one-sided activism, and should view Trump’s bans as a wake up call.


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