In a chilling message, former President Trump pledged to investigate Comcast if he is elected in 2024. Trump insisted that the parent company for NBC and MSNBC “will be thoroughly scrutinized for their knowingly dishonest and corrupt coverage of people, things, and events.” The stated grounds are “country threatening treason.” The pledge is not simply a threat to these news organizations but to the Constitution. While Trump has a history of reckless rhetoric, the statement on Truth Social is an attack on core First Amendment values that define us as a nation.
I have been highly critical of the network for bias and sometimes flawed analysis. It is often the focus of my warnings that we have drifted into a type of de facto state media by consent rather than coercion. Much of this challenged coverage concerns Trump. The vast majority of the public views the media as biased.
I have also long criticized Trump for reckless rhetoric, particularly his repeated reference to the media as the “enemy of the people.”
This is a further escalation of that rhetoric and it is wrong regardless of the complaints over the coverage at NBC/MSNBC.
“[t]hey are almost all dishonest and corrupt, but Comcast, with its one-side and vicious coverage by NBC NEWS, and in particular MSNBC, often and correctly referred to as MSDNC (Democrat National Committee!), should be investigated for its ‘Country Threatening Treason.
I say up front, openly, and proudly, that when I WIN the Presidency of the United States, they and others of the LameStream Media will be thoroughly scrutinized for their knowingly dishonest and corrupt coverage of people, things, and events.
The Fake News Media should pay a big price for what they have done to our once great Country!”
The bigger price would be paid by our constitutional system if such retaliatory actions are taken against critical media companies by a president. The independent press remains a critical protection for this nation despite its flaws. The only thing worst than a biased media is a government that investigates reporters as traitors for their coverage.
While the echo chamber of news is a serious problem for this country, it is a matter for the public to resolve in the market for news. Many news organizations are struggling, including the Washington Post, due to the loss of readers.
The media plays a critical role in our political system. Despite false stories in the last few years, the media often serves to check government abuse by uncovering waste, lies, and unlawful conduct from the Pentagon Papers to Watergate.
Notably, it is unlikely that there is a “there there” in any investigation other than bias. The lock-step coverage of the media from the false Russian collusion claims to false stories like the migrant whipping story is due to the loss of objectivity in journalism. It is consensual rather than conspiratorial. It is also wrong, but that wrong will not be righted by unleashing the government on the media.
I have supported an investigation into the government engaging in “censorship by surrogate” on social media and the Congress can demand answers on the government’s actions vis-a-vis the media. However, targeting the media to be investigated for treason is a threat to free press values.
In 1789, Edmund Burke pointed to the media (which often criticized him) in Parliament and said “there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.”
The defining moment for this country came with the trial of publisher John Peter Zenger by the Crown in New York. Gov. William Cosby used language very similar to Trump’s in unleashing his government on the newspaper. Cosby declared that the paper was publishing “divers scandalous, virulent, false and seditious reflections.” He ordered four editions to be burned publicly.
The jury refused to allow the abuse and acquitted Zenger. From that time, respect for the independence of the press has remained part of our DNA despite our disagreements with coverage.
James Madison called press freedom “the choicest privilege of the people.”
Running for president on a platform of investigating the press may be popular, but it is dangerous and it is wrong.