Hundreds of newspapers nationwide pushed back Thursday against President Trump’s frequent attacks on the press and his assertion that the news media is “the enemy of the people.”
In a coordinated campaign, the newspapers — from Massachusetts to Hawaii — released editorials calling on Trump to curb his rhetoric about the news media. While presidents have long complained about the press, none went as far as Trump in his public derision. Trump often repeats the same words to describe the media — “dishonest,” “disgusting,” “fake,” “opposition party.”
“We all — as citizens — have a stake in this fight, and the battle lines seem pretty clear,” wrote the Miami Herald’s editorial board. “If one first comes successfully for the press as an ‘enemy of the American People,’ what stops someone … coming next for your friends? Your family? Or you?”
Not all editorial boards heeded the call. Among the abstainers were the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times.
Nicholas Goldberg, editorial page editor for The Times, noted past editorials that the newspaper has run on freedom of the press and the current administration.
“The editorial board decided not to write about the subject on this particular Thursday because we cherish our independence,” Goldberg wrote. “We would not want to leave the impression that we take our lead from others, or that we engage in groupthink.”
Among those that did join the campaign, the Denver Post argued that “Trump is a difficult politician to cover. His tweets and factually inaccurate statements frequently put him at loggerheads with the media.”
“In a vacuum void of his outlandish statements, some of Trump’s policies would earn more straightforward media coverage,” wrote the Post. “It has become a destructive cycle where the media covers Trump’s words and instead of self-reflection following scathing media reports, Trump cries fake news.”
On Twitter, the hashtag #freepress trended nationwide.
Trump quickly hit back against the editorials, assailing the news media as the “opposition party.”
THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA IS THE OPPOSITION PARTY. It is very bad for our Great Country....BUT WE ARE WINNING!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 16, 2018
There is nothing that I would want more for our Country than true FREEDOM OF THE PRESS. The fact is that the Press is FREE to write and say anything it wants, but much of what it says is FAKE NEWS, pushing a political agenda or just plain trying to hurt people. HONESTY WINS!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 16, 2018
The release of roughly 300 editorials on Thursday was spearheaded by editorial page editors at the Boston Globe, which last week urged newspaper editorial boards to produce opinion pieces about Trump’s attacks on the media.
The news outlets participating included large papers — the Globe, the New York Times, the Houston Chronicle — and the very, very small, such as the Swellesley Report, which claims to offer “more than you really want to know about Wellesley, Mass.”
“Because we’re so very local, the news we cover is about as real as it gets. We’re fly-under-the radar types who post about school events and other around-town doings,” the online publication wrote. “As you already know, nothing much happens in Wellesley.”
To the extent that anything does happen, the editorial went on, it is the 1st Amendment that ensures that “no one tries to stop us from publishing the weekly police log, or about car crashes, or the occasional tragedy that of course touches even our quiet corner of the world.”