by Erwin Chemerinsky, ACS Board Member, Dean and Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley School of Law
Presidents and the media long have had contentious relationships, but no president in history has expressed so much antipathy to the press as Donald Trump. During the presidential campaign, he referred to the press as “dishonest,” “disgusting,” and “scum.” He mocked the disability of a New York Times reporter, Serge Kovaleski, and repeatedly lashed out at reporters such as Megyn Kelly of Fox News and Katie Tur of NBC. He threated to sue the New York Times for publishing his income tax return and the women who accused him of sexual harassment.
As president he has continuing to express this hostility to the media. The day after his inauguration, on January 21, President Trump, in remarks at the CIA headquarters, said: “I always call them the dishonest media. . . I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth.” Less than a month later, Trump sent a tweet declaring that the nation’s news media “is the enemy of the American people.” He has declared that “[t]he Fake News Media has never been so wrong or so dirty.” In another tweet, Trump said, “Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked.” As a candidate and as president, he has urged changing libel law so that it is easier to sue the press for large amounts of money.