Only the United States has a First Amendment. As a result, it has the least-restrained media in the world. However, the left-leaning Reporters Without Borders has dropped the U.S. in its rankings of countries with the freest press.
“US press freedom, enshrined in the First Amendment to the 1787 constitution, has been under increasing attack over the past few years, and the first year of President Donald J. Trump’s presidency has fostered further decline in journalists’ right to report,” the group stated.
It added: “He has declared the press an “enemy of the American people” in a series of verbal attacks toward journalists, attempted to block White House access to multiple media outlets, and routinely uses the term “fake news” in retaliation for critical reporting.”
“Free,” of course, doesn’t mean “free from criticism,” or “all media outlets receive access all the time.”
During a briefing yesterday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about it: “What’s the reaction of the White House, and does it accept that the president’s comments [have] denigrated freedom of the press in the United States?”
“I certainly would reject the idea that the president or this administration has halted freedom of the press,” Sanders responded. “We’re one of the most accessible administrations that we’ve seen in decades.”
She continued: “I think by my mere presence of standing up here and taking your questions unvetted is a pretty good example of freedom of the press, and I think it’s ridiculous to suggest otherwise.”
Reporters Without Borders ignores, of course, the behavior of the Obama administration, which seized phone records of reporters with the Associated Press and is considered by many to be the least transparent administration in history.
Trump is hostile to the press. He knows there’s an overwhelming liberal bias in the media and refuses to let it continue without criticism. That the press has been found to be negative 90% of the time when covering Trump is a pretty strong statement about their freedom.
Trump’s rhetoric does nothing to inhibit the press from operating. If Trump were half as bad as the press and Reporters Without Borders makes him out to be, Jim Acosta and many others would be in a prison cell. Instead, he’s perhaps the most vocal and visible member of the D.C. media establishment.
The truth is that, unlike past presidents, Trump understands he doesn’t need the press. He can release his message directly to the people, bypassing the press entirely. So he doesn’t pander to them. He doesn’t try to befriend them.
The public is better off for it.