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The Trump Campaign Could Save the Free Press… By Suing Them

Fake news is a big business.

The election of President Trump revealed a previously under-appreciated bias throughout the legacy media. The veneer of neutrality in journalism disappeared. Mistrust and division have since flourished, and news outlets appear to be dead set on assisting efforts to undermine and remove the President, instead of simply reporting the facts.

Who will pay the price for this deluge of falsity?

Until recently, the public has borne the cost of fake news – from accusations of being “low information” or “Russian bots”, to being hectored online, our free speech curtailed, and of course constantly being referred to as “conspiracy theorists”.

Now, however, several major media outlets are facing lawsuits charging them with defamation and libel.

The President’s re-election campaign recently filed libel suits seeking damages “in the millions of dollars” against the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Last year, “smirking” teenager Nick Sandmann sued the Washington Post alongside CNN, and NBC Universal seeking $800 million in compensation for libel.

CNN settled the case against them in January for an undisclosed amount. Sandmann intends to file several other suits against media outlets who falsely reported on the events at the March for Life 2019.

THE CASE AGAINST THE MEDIA.

When Donald Trump announced his run for President, the legacy media united to convince the American people he was not the man for the job.

Outlets which once regarded one another as competitors, or which prided themselves on their distinct takes soon began to sing with one voice.

Since the 2016 election, the news has become worse.

“Trump’s coverage during his first 100 days set a new standard for negativity,” according to a May 2017 report from the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. The Harvard-based research center stated: “Of news reports with a clear tone, negative reports outpaced positive ones by 80 percent to 20 percent. Trump’s coverage was unsparing. In no week did the coverage drop below 70 percent negative and it reached 90 percent negative at its peak.”

It never improved.

In 2018, Time magazine printed a cover photo featuring President Trump standing next to a crying toddler with a story portraying the child as a victim of family border separation policies.

Time Magazine’s fake news cover

The child’s father soon came forward with the truth, explaining his daughter was not separated from her parents at the border. He explained the child’s mother was separating their daughter from her family in Honduras and did so without his knowledge.

Time was forced to issue a correction, although the web page containing the mea culpa is no longer viewable.

Instead, the website reads: “Apologies, but the page that you are accessing is not available.”

In 2019, ABC apologized for portraying old footage of a gun range demonstration in Kentucky as Turkish bombings in Syria. The story ran immediately after the President’s decision for troop withdrawal in Syria.

The liberal media swung into action as an echo chamber when actor Jussie Smollett claimed to have been assaulted by pro-Trump activists in the middle of a snowy night in Chicago. It turned out to be a hoax hate crime – a phenomenon that appears to be increasing in frequency.

The examples go on, and on.

In 2017, the Daily Mail reported First Lady Melania Trump previously worked for a modeling agency that doubled as an escort service. She sued and won $2.9 million.

In 2019, the aforementioned Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann attended the March for Life in Washington, D.C. What happened next is – luckily for Sandmann and his colleagues – now part of the historical record against the legacy media in the United States.

But not before the youngsters were vilified, and even provided with incitement to violence by one CNN “reporter”:

CNN’s Reza Aslan incites violence against 16-year-old Nick Sandmann

 

With every such story, biased report, and snarky tweet, the media invites mistrust, disdain, and a desire for change.

Yet many of them still “don’t get it” themselves, despite their own industry chiefs firing off warning flares: both Gallup and Reuters studies show a major decline in trust in the media.

As of September 2019, only 41 percent of Americans have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in mass media down 4 percent from 2018 and a massive drop from 1972’s trust level of 68 percent.

Another study shows that worldwide, “national levels of trust in the news media have fallen by an average of five percentage points across 18 countries since 2015”.

Fake news erodes trust and creates division in an already fractured nation.

If the fourth estate can’t be trusted to be the people’s check against corruption in government, they become active participants in it.

Most Americans disagree about the role of the media with Pew Research reporting a “44-percentage-point gap between Democratic and Republican support for the watchdog role (82 percent vs. 38 percent respectively).”

Fake news jeopardizes freedom of speech.

“About eight-in-ten Americans (79 percent) think steps should be taken to restrict made-up news and information intended to mislead, while 20 percent say it is more important that the freedom to access and publish it be protected”.

Fighting back is one of the most urgent issues facing Americans, and the recent Trump campaign lawsuits are a small step in the right direction.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides journalists the freedom to report information without fear of government censorship or punishment. But not to lie, cheat, deceive, nor slander.

Dianna Berry

Dianna Berry is a 2020 National Pulse Writing Fellow