President Donald Trump continued his weeks-long rhetorical attack on the media and First Amendment, lending credence to a conservative commentator’s stance that the American press often is “corrupt.”
After suggesting this week that he sees the media’s First Amendment protections as “disgusting,” the president on Friday morning retweeted former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s post that included this line: “A corrupt press damages the Republic.”
O’Reilly was a leading conservative pundit from his platform at Fox News until he was fired in April after it was revealed that he and the network had paid millions of dollars in settlements over sexual harassment claims.
A free press is vital to protecting all Americans. A corrupt press damages the Republic.
— Bill O’Reilly (@billoreilly) October 12, 2017
Trump commented on another O’Reilly tweet that stated the president could not, as Trump had appeared to suggest Wednesday about NBC, pull a network’s FCC license. The president seemed to acknowledge he could not simply take a network off the air, but again called NBC — and other outlets — “Fake News,” adding his belief that “the public is just beginning to figure it out!”
That came after Trump on Wednesday dismissed as “fake news” a NBC News report that he signaled in late July to senior national security officials his desire for a major increase in the number of American nuclear weapons. That report, citing multiple officials who were in the room for the briefing in question, described Trump making his desires known after being shown a slide depicting the reduction in U.S. atomic arms since the late 1960s.
The United States at around 32,000 then, and has drawn down to around 4,000 now. Trump, NBC reported, told his national security team he wanted to return to 1960s levels — an eightfold increase that would violate numerous treaties and come with a massive price tag that would blow up the annual Pentagon and federal budgets.
Trump’s first attack on that report and the network came Wednesday morning on Twitter, with him threatening to target NBC’s “License.” That was taken by some as just his latest attack on the First Amendment, which he has suggested should have some limits — especially for professional athletes who protest perceived social ills and media outlets that publish pieces about him with which he disagrees.
With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2017
And he allowed his frustration with the media to show later in that day.
“It is, frankly, disgusting,” he told reporters, “the press is able to write whatever it wants to write.”
Notably, Trump frequently summons the White House press corps’ daily pool of journalists that tracks his movements when he wants to make a statement — even unplanned remarks. One example came last Thursday evening after the day’s pool had been dismissed — the president summoned a makeshift pool to a dinner with his top military generals to cryptically warn the event might be the “calm before the storm.”
The week’s attacks on the media came after the president on Oct. 5 tweeted that he wants the Senate Intelligence Committee to investigate the news media as it continues to investigate possible collusion between his 2016 campaign organization and Moscow.
During the White House press briefing that day, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked this about Trump: “Does he value the First Amendment as much as he values the Second Amendment?”
“Absolutely,” she replied. “The president is an incredible advocate of the First Amendment.”