By Jason M. Shepard
President Donald Trump forcibly rejected the principles and values of the First Amendment’s freedom of the press at a fiery and erratic campaign rally speech in Arizona on Tuesday night.
The American press is “taking away our history and our heritage,” President Trump declared, saying of journalists: “They’re bad people. And I really think they don’t like our country.”
“If you want to discover the source of the division in our country, look no further than the fake news and the crooked media which would rather get ratings and clicks than tell the truth,” President Trump said.
He singled out the “failing” New York Times, the “lobbying tool for Amazon” Washington Post, and the “so bad and so pathetic” CNN. He said journalists “make up stories” and “don’t report the facts.”
Notably, all three news organizations have won accolades for a resurgence of independent, investigative journalism aimed at fact-checking Trump’s statements and investigating potential misconduct.
“It’s time to expose the crooked media deceptions, and to challenge the media for their role in fomenting divisions,” Trump said.
Trump did single out three individuals and programs for praise: Jeffrey Lord, a CNN commentator fired for a pro-Nazi tweet; Sean Hannity of Fox News; and the morning show Fox and Friends.
While American history is filled with U.S. presidents unhappy with reporting by independent journalists, Trump’s speech was arguably the most direct attack on the profession of journalism by an American president.
As prominent GOP pollster and Fox News pundit Frank Luntz noted on Twitter, “Trump doesn’t just criticize media more than he criticizes neo-Nazi’s — he criticizes them more than radical Islamic terrorists.”
CNN’s Brian Stelter reported that “several prominent members of the media said the President’s anti-press rhetoric was downright dangerous, because it could lead individuals to try to harm journalists.” Stelter reported:
While the President complaints about “fake news” on an almost daily basis, Tuesday seemed especially severe.
ABC’s Cecilia Vega, who was at the rally, said on “GMA” that “this was incitement, plain and simple.”
Vega, who has covered many of Trump’s rallies, showed video of rallygoers scolding the press corps while saying “this one felt different.”
“It really feels like a matter of time, frankly, before someone gets hurt,” she said.
Here are 10 excerpts from Trump’s speech in which he criticizes the press (thanks to a transcript posted by TIME):
1. “… The very dishonest media, those people right up there with all the cameras. (CROWD: BOOING) So the — and I mean truly dishonest people in the media and the fake media, they make up stories. They have no sources in many cases. They say “a source says” — there is no such thing. But they don’t report the facts. Just like they don’t want to report that I spoke out forcefully against hatred, bigotry and violence and strongly condemned the neo-Nazis, the White Supremacists, and the KKK. (CROWD: APPLAUSE) I openly called for unity, healing and love, and they know it because they were all there. So what I did — (CROWD: APPLAUSE) So what I did is I thought, I’d take just a second, and I’m really doing this more than anything else, because you know where my heart is, OK? (CROWD: APPLAUSE) I’m really doing this to show you how damned dishonest these people are.”
2. “Dishonest people. So here is — here is me — I hope they’re showing how many people are in this room, but they won’t. They don’t even do that. The only time they show the crowds is when there’s a disrupter or an anarchist in the room. I call them anarchists. Because, believe me, we have plenty of anarchists. They don’t want to talk about the anarchists.”
3. “I’m telling you folks, look, look, I know these people probably better than anybody. And a lot of people have a problem with it, because look, what happens with them, if they’re doing a story about me, I know if it’s honest or false. If you’re reading a story about somebody, you don’t know. You assume it’s honest, because it’s like the failing New York Times, which is like so bad. It’s so bad. (CROWD: BOOING) Or the Washington Post, which call a lobbying tool for Amazon, OK, that’s a lobbying tool for Amazon. Or CNN, which is so bad and so pathetic, and their ratings are going down. (CROWD: BOOING) Right? (CROWD: CNN sucks! CNN sucks! CNN sucks!) But all the networks — I mean, CNN is really bad, but ABC this morning — I don’t watch it much, but I’m watching in the morning, and they have little George Stephanopoulos talking to Nikki Haley, right? Little George.”
4. “I said, racism is evil. Do they report that I said that racism is evil? You know why? Because they are very dishonest people. So I said, racism is evil. Now they only choose, you know, like a half a sentence here or there and then they just go on this long rampage, or they put on these real lightweights all around a table that nobody ever heard of, and they all say what a bad guy I am. But, I mean do you ever see anything — and then you wonder why CNN is doing relatively poorly in the ratings. Because they’re putting like seven people all negative on Trump. And they fired Jeffrey Lord, poor Jeffrey. Jeffrey Lord. I guess he was getting a little fed up, and he was probably fighting back a little bit too hard. They said, we’ve better get out of here; we can’t have that. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold true as Americans. Now let me ask you, can it be any better than that, in all fairness? And you know I mention that, but to the best of my knowledge when there was a big problem, Barack Obama never said it took place because of radical Islamic terrorists, he never said that, right. He doesn’t have to say… (CROWD: BOOING) You know why? Because they have a double standard. Because the media is totally dishonest, and they have a double standard. You never heard them say that. And in fact, if you use the term you’d get criticized. But with me, they wanted me to say it, and I said it. And I said it very clearly, but they refused to put it on.”
5. “Now, you know, I was a good student. I always hear about the elite. You know, the elite. They’re elite? I went to better schools than they did. I was a better student than they were. I live in a bigger, more beautiful apartment, and I live in the White House, too, which is really great. (CROWD: APPLAUSE) I think — you know what? I think we’re the elites. They’re not the elites. (CROWD: APPLAUSE) So the point is — and I didn’t want to bore you, because you understand where I’m coming from. You people understand. But the point is, that those were three different — there were two statements and one news conference. The words were perfect. They only take out anything they can think of, and for the most part, all they do is complain. But they don’t put on those words. And they don’t put on me saying those words. The media can attack me. But where I draw the line is when they attack you, which is what they do. When they attack the decency of our supporters. (CROWD: APPLAUSE) You are honest, hard-working, taxpaying — and by the way, you’re overtaxed, but we’re going to get your taxes down. (CROWD: APPLAUSE) You’re taxpaying Americans who love our nation, obey our laws, and care for our people.”
6. “It’s time to expose the crooked media deceptions, and to challenge the media for their role in fomenting divisions. (CROWD: APPLAUSE) And yes, by the way — and yes, by the way, they are trying to take away our history and our heritage. You see that. (CROWD: BOOING) And — and I say it, and you know, we’re all pros. We’re all, like, we have a certain sense. We’re smart people. These are truly dishonest people. And not all of them. Not all of them. You have some very good reporters. You have some very fair journalists. But for the most part, honestly, these are really, really dishonest people, and they’re bad people. And I really think they don’t like our country. I really believe that. And I don’t believe they’re going to change, and that’s why I do this. If they would change, I would never say it. The only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media itself, and the fake news.”
7. “Oh, that’s so funny. Look back there, the live red lights. They’re turning those suckers off fast out there. They’re turning those lights off fast. Like CNN. CNN does not want its falling viewership to watch what I’m saying tonight, I can tell you. I mean, the advantage I have — the advantage I have is that we do have a big voice. And you know, they’re always saying, like Twitter or social media — if I didn’t have social media, I wouldn’t be able to get the word out. I probably wouldn’t be standing here, right? I probably wouldn’t be standing here right now. (CROWD: APPLAUSE) If I don’t have social media, I probably would not be standing. And do you ever notice, when I go on and I’ll put, like, out a tweet or a couple of tweets, “He’s in a Twitter-storm again!” I — I don’t do Twitter-storms. You know, you’ll put out a little tweet: “I’m going to be with the veterans today.” They’ll say, “Donald Trump is in a Twitter-storm.” These are sick people. You know the thing I don’t understand? You would think — you would think they’d want to make our country great again, and I honestly believe they don’t. I honestly believe it.”
8. “If you want to discover the source of the division in our country, look no further than the fake news and the crooked media which would rather get ratings and clicks than tell the truth. I mean, the New York Times has written some stories. How about this? The New York Times essentially apologized after I won the election, because their coverage was so bad, and it was so wrong, and they were losing so many subscribers that they practically apologized. I would say they did. They say, well, it wasn’t really that much of an apology. Because they were losing so many people, because they were misled. And I figured, this is great. And for about two weeks I got good coverage. Then they reverted back into worse than ever before. You know, it’s like one of those things. The Washington Post is terrible. But these are dishonest — but let me tell you, you have some great, honest papers. You have some great networks. I must tell you, Fox has treated me fairly. Fox treated me fairly. (CROWD: APPLAUSE) They’ve treated me fairly. Hey, I’ll let you know. You know what? Some day they might not treat me fairly, and I’ll tell you about it, OK? But they’ve treated me fairly, and I don’t mean all good. I get plenty of bad on Fox, too. But at least it’s within reason. And Hannity? How good is Hannity (inaudible)? How good is Hannity? (CROWD: APPLAUSE) And he’s a great guy, and he’s an honest guy. And “Fox and Friends in the Morning” is the best show, and it’s the absolute, most honest show, and it’s the show I watch.”
9. “Oh boy, those cameras are going off. Oh, wow. Why don’t you just fold them up and take them home? Oh, those cameras are going off. Wow. That’s the one thing, they’re very nervous to have me on live television, because this can (ph) happen.”
10. “Now, you know what? I’m a person that wants to tell the truth. I’m an honest person, and what I’m saying, you know is exactly right. Not only does the media give a platform to hate groups, but the media turns a blind eye to the gang violence on our streets, the failures of our public school, the destruction of our wealth at the hands of the terrible, terrible trade deals made by politicians that should’ve never been allowed to be politicians. And the unaccountable hostility against our incredible police, who work so hard at such a dangerous job.”
Click here for a video of the remarks.
Jason M. Shepard, Ph.D., is an associate professor of communications and chair of the Department of Communications at California State University, Fullerton. His primary research expertise is in media law, and he teaches courses in journalism, and media law, history and ethics. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @jasonmshepard.