Thursday, February 27, 2020
Miles from the Mainstream
D. R. ZUKERMAN, proprietor

On Elevating Criticism into an Attack
on the Free Press

July 5, 2019 --

New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger believes that "every patriotic American" should be concerned about the president's "campaign against journalists." Writing in an op-ed piece June 20 in The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Sulzberger was responding to President Trump's charge that The New York Times, on June 16 "committed 'a virtual act of treason' for reporting that the U.S. Cyber Command had made a cyber intrusion in Russia's electrical grid. Interestingly, while writing that the Times was accused of a crime punishable by death, Mr. Sulzberger acknowledged that many media outlets, including the Times, didn't report the accusation, "a sign of how inured we've grown to such rhetorical recklessness." Mr. Sulzberger continued, "But this new attack crosses a dangerous line in the president's campaign against a free and independent press." "What is left,"
Mr. Sulzberger asked, "but putting his threats into action?"

For LPR, it was more significant that the Times article suggested that the president was not briefed on the intrusion against Russia because officials feared he would either countermand the action, or speak about it in conversation with Russian officials. The article went on to report that under applicable law, this type of military action did not require a presidential briefing, but it risked "escalating the daily digital Cold War between Washington and Moscow."

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, on Face the Nation, June 16 told moderator Margaret Brennan that he was "most" disturbed that security officials felt they could not brief the president on the cyber attack fearing he would tell the Russians, or countermand the action "because of the President's obsequious attitude towards Russia." Ms. Brennan asked if Chairman Schiff was "still suggesting that the President may be a Russian asset." In response, the chairman pointed to concern at the FBI "that people around the President and ultimately the President might be acting as witting or unwitting agent of a foreign power." Ms. Brennan did not seek further explanation from Mr. Schiff.

And so the insinuations from the left, in Congress and in the media, attacking President Trump's loyalty to the U.S., continue. The anti-Trump stance of The New York Times gives the lie to Mr. Sulzberger's assertion in his Wall Street Journal op-ed piece that his paper is committed to fair and accurate reporting "even when we are under attack." At The New York Times. criticism of the media is considered an attack on a free press.

The Times made clear its anti-Trump stance, certainly by August 21, 2016, when it indicated that even if Donald Trump is defeated in the presidential race, "[t]he message of hatred and paranoia that is inciting millions of voters will outlast the messenger." The editorial then asserted, "The toxic effects of Trumpism will have to be addressed." Just about every day, in its opinion columns, or editorials, and even in the news columns, The New York Times is apparently bent on addressing "[t]he toxic effects of Trumpism." And how best can this be accomplished if not, first, by ousting the president?

A letter writer to The Wall Street Journal, June 24, Les Dawson of Phoenix, asked Mr. Sulzberger to point to journalists jailed by the president, or newspapers forced to close, or broadcast licenses termination "or for that matter, any actions he has taken to restrict a free and fair press." All that President Trump has done is use his First Amendment rights to reply to media attacks that include accusations that he is traitor. See, for example
the Charles Blow column in the July 16, 2018 New York Times asserting: "America is being betrayed by its own president. America is under attack and its president absolutely refuses to defend it." He added, "Simp[ly put, Trump[ is a traitor and may well be treasonous. And what are the accusations of collusion if not accusations of treason by other means?

The left's propaganda campaign to oust President Trump calls to mind the extreme right-wing denunciations, in the '40's and '50's, of liberals as communistic traitors. (LPR recalls that such attacks were even leveled against President Eisenhower.) The left, today, may attack Trump voters as people motivated by "hate and paranoia," but this invidious mindset seems to inform current leftist anti-Trump propaganda. It cannot be expected that the denunciations of President Trump will end before the next presidential election, November 3, and, indeed, will continue into a second Trump term, if he is re-elected. The left, borrowing from the Times August 21, 2016 editorial, will continue to "address" what it, quite irrationally, views as toxic Trumpism. At the risk of also being accused of attacking a free press, LPR believes that truth in labeling would require A.G. Sulzberger to change the slogan of The New York Times to: "All the anti-Trump Propaganda That's Fit to Print."