February 29, 2016   |   Claire Bernish
February 29, 2016
(ANTIMEDIA) United States — Donald Trump’s startling popularity has far more to do with his devotion to reactionary, absolutist proposals than logical, scrupulously considered solutions. So his latest fix for unwanted criticism from news organizations — no matter how justified — should come as no surprise:
“One of the things I’m going to do if I win, and I hope we do and we’re certainly leading. I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money,” Trump proclaimed at a rally in Fort Worth, Texas.
“We’re going to open up those libel laws so when The New York Times writes a hit piece, which is a total disgrace, or when the Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected,” he said. He was apparently denigrating the value and constitutional protection of freedom of the press, considering his concerns rest with justifiably negative press and nothing actually libelous.
“You see, with me, they’re not protected, because I’m not like other people but I’m not taking money. I’m not taking their money,” he added. “We’re going to open up libel laws and we’re going to have people sue you like you’ve never got sued before.”
At present, cases of libel against media are largely determined not at the federal level, but within states. They depend on the ostensibly injured party proving malicious intent — that an organization knowingly published false information, or did so with reckless disregard of fact. Politico noted the precedent-setting case for this law, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, was decided by the Supreme Court in 1964.
Trump notoriously harbors no feelings of goodwill toward the media — often using disparaging terms to refer to journalists, if not physically removing them from rallies.
CNN reporter Noah Gray — who apparently made the grievous error of stepping away from the cordoned media area at one of the billionaire’s events, was told to get “inside the pen or I pull your credentials” by a Trump campaign official. Of course, such a crass and derisive attitude obviously resonates with Trump’s supporters. At an event in Reno, CBS reporter Sopan Deb was asked — in all seriousness — if he was “taking pictures for ISIS.” At a rally in South Carolina, Trump called the media “absolute scum.” And of course, there was his infamous — but no less immature — spat with Fox News and Megyn Kelly.
John Cassidy of the New Yorker immediately reacted to the candidate’s plan to thwart legal precedent for libel law on Twitter, saying, “Trump takes attacks on media to a new level — says as President he’ll try to gut the First Amendment.”
Despite being perceived by many as an extremist, xenophobic heretofore joke of a candidate, Trump’s persistently high poll numbers have led some to predict the very real possibility he could garner not only the nomination, but an actual spot in the White House. However comical such proposals as The Wall might have seemed, if such predictions come to fruition, a Trump presidency could be a nightmarish Orwellian reality soon.
Though in South Carolina — during the same event he dubbed media to be scum — Trump declared, “The mainstream media want to surrender the Constitution,” realistically, Trump threatens the constitutional liberties of millions infinitely more than any journalist could.
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