Election 2020

Press-Freedom Group: Trump Gave 'Ready-Made Excuse' for Authoritarian Crackdowns

(AP Photo/Jim Cole)

A press-freedom group accused Donald Trump of setting an example for media crackdowns by authoritarian leaders by revoking the credentials of the Washington Post to cover him on the campaign trail.

Trump was angry over the Post’s coverage of comments he made on Fox News this morning about President Obama and the Orlando terrorist attack.

“Look, we’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind,” Trump said. “And the something else in mind — you know, people can’t believe it. People cannot, they cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts and can’t even mention the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable. There’s something going on.”

“…He doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anybody understands — it’s one or the other, and either one is unacceptable.”

Later on NBC, Trump was asked to explain those comments.

“Well there are a lot of people that think maybe he doesn’t want to get it,” Trump said. “A lot of people think maybe he doesn’t want to know about it. I happen to think that he just doesn’t know what he’s doing, but there are many people that think maybe he doesn’t want to get it. He doesn’t want to see what’s really happening. And that could be.”

Trump objected to the Post’s headline on the coverage: “Donald Trump seems to connect President Obama to Orlando Shooting.

Late Monday afternoon, Trump posted on his Facebook page: “Based on the incredibly inaccurate coverage and reporting of the record setting Trump campaign, we are hereby revoking the press credentials of the phony and dishonest Washington Post.”

His campaign added in a statement, “We no longer feel compelled to work with a publication which has put its need for ‘clicks’ above journalistic integrity.”

“They have no journalistic integrity and write falsely about Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump does not mind a bad story, but it has to be honest,” the statement continued. “The fact is, The Washington Post is being used by the owners of Amazon as their political lobbyist so that they don’t have to pay taxes and don’t get sued for monopolistic tendencies that have led to the destruction of department stores and the retail industry.”

The Post’s executive editor, Marty Baron, said Trump’s decision “is 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,” Baron said. “The Post will continue to cover Donald Trump as it has all along — honorably, honestly, accurately, energetically, and unflinchingly. We’re proud of our coverage, and we’re going to keep at it.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists, which issues regular reports on journalists killed and imprisoned around the world, keeps track of the most censored countries and attacks on the free press.

In a statement issued after Trump’s announcement, CPJ deputy executive director Robert Mahoney said “a candidate for the highest elected office in the land doesn’t get to choose what goes in a newspaper.”

“Revoking the credentials of the Washington Post to cover the Trump campaign is bad for voters in the United States and bad for press freedom everywhere,” Mahoney said. “It provides a ready-made excuse for authoritarian leaders to crack down further on independent journalists.”

Another press-freedom group, Reporters Without Borders, said it “strongly and unequivocally condemns this latest act of hostility toward the press as a serious violation of press freedom.”

“How, in the country of the First Amendment, can the Republican party’s nominee for president justify revoking press credentials for one of the country’s major newspapers?” said Delphine Halgand, RSF’s USA director.