Dan Rather responded Wednesday to Donald Trump’s recent screed against the media. Posting to Facebook, the journalist said he “felt a shudder down [his] spine” while watching Trump level condemnation at the press.
Calling Trump’s comments a “tirade,” Rather expressed concern that Trump might use any power granted through election to intimidate or persecute any reporter who asks tough questions.
Attacking the press for unfair coverage has long been a bipartisan pursuit… But Trump’s brand of vituperation is particularly personal and vicious. It carries with it the drumbeats of threatening violence. It cannot be left unanswered.
This is not about politics or policy. It’s about protecting our most cherished principles. The relationship between the press and the powerful they cover is by its very definition confrontational. That is how the Founding Fathers envisioned it, with noble clauses of protection enshrined in our Constitution.
Good journalism–the kind that matters–requires reporters who won’t back up, back down, back away or turn around when faced with efforts to intimidate them. It also requires owners and other bosses with guts, who stand by and for their reporters when the heat is on.
Popular though it may be to criticize the media for their coverage, Rather presents a worthy point. The press, for all their faults, have only that power granted them through the consent of their audience. They can only ever persuade. They cannot force. Trump, if elected, will have the ability to initiate force.
Add to that the fact that Trump has repeatedly expressed his desire to use state authority to silence dissent. Indeed, campaign surrogate Roger Stone recently suggested that Trump might pull CNN off the air by denying renewal of their FCC license. That’s a prospect which should send a shudder down all our spines.