Free Speech in the Trump Era – Lexspects

“Donald Trump; a name that makes some nauseous, and others gleeful. One substantial debate that has consistently surfaced in Trump’s campaign and presidency is free speech. Critics vocalize that Trump threatens the liberties of Americans, while the alternative viewpoint trusts that he solely points out faults in the media.

Trump often judges the press via his Twitter account, as well as through press conferences, by referring to what he calls “fake news.” For example, on November 11th, 2017, he questioned, “does the Fake News Media remember when Crooked Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, was begging Russia to be our friend with the misspelled reset button? Obama tried also, but he had zero chemistry with Putin.” The phrase “fake news” shows up regularly in Trump’s vocabulary. His opposition suggests that he utilizes this saying when he is associated with unpleasant reports about himself, or his conduct. Critics interpret Trump’s tweets as a menace to citizens speaking their minds. After multiple instances of Donald Trump’s aggression towards the media, they worry of his abuse of power.

Trump’s repeated use of the term “fake news” had such a significant effect on people worldwide. As a result of the current events, Time News discloses that the term will be included in’s next edition, defined as “false news stories, often of a sensational nature, created to be widely shared online for the purpose of generating ad revenue via web traffic or discrediting a public figure, political movement, company, etc.” However, “the definition won’t be true to the way he generally uses the term so much as the way it is used to describe alleged attempts by Russia to meddle in the 2016 election.” The decision to include “fake news” as a dictionary term represents just how real this idea was in last year’s election.

Trump’s administration helps to shield him from specific media contributors. On February 24th, 2017, White House staff blocked journalists reporting from multiple news organizations including BBC, CNN, The New York Times, LA Times, Politico, Buzzfeed, and The Guardian from attending a press conference. The internet exploded with a variety of reactions to the situation. According to CNN, the arrangement “struck veteran White House journalists as unprecedented in the modern era.” The White House correspondents’ feelings of doubt explain the tension that Trump’s anti-media approach created. To them, the rejection of specific broadcasters from a press conference poses a problem for the future of free speech. Many agree that despite the fact that our president disagrees with the way the media characterizes him, the press should still be included in these events. This portion of the public argues that Trump is protecting himself from unfavorable news coverage.

On the other hand, Trump loyalists insist the press is biased and makes false reports. For instance, Trump stated that the media takes pieces of his sentences and clips of videos to fabricate new ones. This has been proven true on several occasions. One headline that went viral on Twitter states, “Donald Trump ignored little boy in wheelchair when he tried to shake hands.” It was later announced that Trump did shake the little boy’s hand and crouched down to see him at eye level when CNN posted an unedited video of the occurrence. Another incident of such took place when NBC authored a story about Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s supposed dissatisfaction with the White House; however, Tillerson  quickly denied the allegations. This was not the first time a member of Trump’s administration had to rebuke claims made by the media. On August 5th, 2017, The New York Times published the following: “Republican Shadow Campaign for 2020 Takes Shape as Trump Doubts Grow.” The article focused on the possibility of Mike Pence running in the 2020 presidential election. Mike Pence’s press secretary, Marc Lotter, tweeted “Claims @VP preparing for 2020 run are ridiculous #FakeNews and nothing more than wishful thinking by New York Times.” Lotter insists that this news truly is false, and was miscommunication on the part of the New York Times.

In these instances, Trump’s supporters may claim that the saying “fake news” is justifiable by the media’s proven errors. Still, Trump’s detractors point out unreasonable assaults on the news industry. On August 13th, the day following the Charlottesville protests and attacks, Trump’s re-election campaign uploaded an advertisement displaying the faces of Trump’s “enemies”, including Anderson Cooper, and Rachel Maddow. The commercial was perceived as a danger to free speech. This is a recurring pattern in the Trump administration. Nine days later, on August 22nd , Trump held a rally at which he declared reporters to be “sick people,” saying “I really think they don’t like our country.” If the president considers journalists to be adversaries, it may be possible that they are deterred from reporting on his presidency.

Many journalists have called attention to the dangers of reporting in this political climate. Courtney C. Radsch from the Committee to Protect Journalists made a statement on the difficulties journalists face while reporting on Trump, “It creates an environment in which attacks on the press, both verbal and potentially physical, could become common.” In fact, the U.S Press Freedom Tracker has,, documented the 15 journalists who had been physically attacked within the year. Targeting of the press has not only become a concern for journalists, but also for the public, as it affects how future events will be published.

There are conflicting opinions among both Democrats and Republicans in regards to the First Amendment right. Republican Senator of Arizona, Jeff Flake, made a retirement speech on the Senate floor expressing his opinions relating to Donald Trump. Flake declared “when we succumb to those [selfish] considerations in spite of what should be greater considerations and imperatives in defense of the institutions of our liberty, then we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations.” Those who share Flake’s values may see free speech as one such “institution of liberty.” Jeff Flake may have been referring to the importance of free speech during this presidency. Flake would be an example of a prominent Republican who is unsatisfied with the conditions of free speech under Trump.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agrees that attacks on the press have gone too far. McConnell said, “My view is that most news is not fake, but I do try to look at a variety of sources.” While Democrats are stepping forward in regards to this ongoing problem, Republicans are as well, proving how controversial this issue truly is.

Donald Trump has shifted the United States’ political climate since his arrival at the White House. Perhaps Trump’s most controversial impact is on journalism and the right to criticize him. This important issue of free speech in the media is ongoing, and Americans will continue to consider it in future elections.”


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