Being in the public eye isn't easy, to say the least. And while every United States president has had to deal with bad press, Donald Trump is taking the heat to a whole new level. From his aggression towards reporters at press conferences, his insistences that any negative coverage about him is "fake news," and his Twitter feed, Trump's relationship with the press has always been strained. Even before his election, during Trump's campaign, his heated comments about "failing" publications and networks were prominent in his speeches. Lately, though, his aggression is mounting. So, why is Trump pitting the media against Americans so dangerous? The reasons are plenty.
In a recent tweet, Trump proclaimed that several publications and networks are "the enemy of the American People!" Obviously, this statement is troubling, but it's important to note that popular conservative network, and avid Trump-supporting channel, Fox News, is not mentioned as one of the media agencies that is "fake" or "failing." In fact, Trump has praised Fox, and recently even revealed that he watches it regularly. But his dismissal of any news or coverage that sheds any kind of negative light on him, or reports on any misgivings he or his administration may have, is not only theoretically dangerous, it's historically dangerous.
According to a report by The Washington Post, Carl Bernstien, one of the reporters who worked to uncover the Watergate scandal, has claimed that “Trump's attacks on the American press as 'enemies of the American people' are more treacherous than Richard Nixon's attacks on the press." Truly, Trump's attempts to undermine stories that are alleging negative information about him is threatening to democracy, specifically to the First Amendment, and freedom of the press — one of America's most important checks of accountability:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Clearly, if Trump were to have his way, no critical news coverage of the president would exist, but that's not what our nation is based on. It is the responsibility of the press to report the truth, and to dig deep to find it, never mind how officials and leaders feel about what is being reported. Reporters put their lives at risk to cover international affairs, wars, terrorism, and yes, unstable leaders, dictators, and presidents.
The press surrounding President Barack Obama, especially when he was first elected, was critical, and at times, blatantly racist. However, Obama never referred to media as "fake" or the "enemy." No president has, since President Richard Nixon. And, as Bernstein recalled, those weren't exactly good times for Americans. Nixon reprimanded the press for reporting unfavorable stories on him, and, in the end, he resigned.
Trump's conduct, though, has never been perfect, nor has he even tried to cover anything up, claiming his comments about grabbing women "by the p*ssy" were merely "locker room talk." Many, in fact, have alleged that he lacks a moral compass independent of his own best interest. Even fellow Republican, Arizona Sen. John McCain, has been vocal in his disapproval of the president, calling Trump's latest comments about the press the way "dictators get started."
Trump's claims that the press is biased against him and his administration is truly startling, but, actually, remains on par with his actions. In the same way that Trump is attempting to discredit the press, and media has a whole, by claiming that they're lying, he has also aimed to stigmatize the judiciary system. Trump angrily tweeted about the courts that denied his travel ban be reinstated, with the assumption that he should always win:
His treatment of the country's system of checks and balances is troubling. A president who lets his ego get in the way of democracy is no better than a dictator, and as many experts have pointed out, that seems to be the way America is headed.