Brief #59—Civil Rights

Policy Summary: Since the day President Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States he has become a vocal critic of various news groups. Over the following twelve months CNN calculated that the President used the word fake more than 400 times in connection with news, polls, stories and media to imply that all of those things could not be trusted as valid. Due to the President’s ongoing attacks, the editorial board of the Boston Globe proposed an editorial initiative where newspaper editorial boards around the country would publish a “coordinated response” on August 16, 2018 to counter the President’s attacks on media outlets. On August 16, 2018 more than 300 newspaper outlets participated and published editorials that expressed differing levels of disappointment towards the President’s rhetoric against the media. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Analysis: The President’s attacks on the media are another low point in a presidency that has had a number of low points. It is understandable that not everybody, including this President, will agree with any number of stories that are written about his administration. The use of “fake news” as a slur or insult to throw at a story or journalist helps illustrate the President’s mindset – that he should not be criticized in any way.

This is a very dangerous approach and a direct threat to American democracy. The media and newspapers that report the news act as an unofficial watchdog on the activities of the government bureaucracy in order to hold them accountable for what they are doing. It is also so that government actors stay within the accepted limits of their official job duties. But President Trump does not see it that way and instead is using the tactic of labeling everything “fake news” in the hopes of discrediting specific journalists and stories even if they may be truthful. But discrediting a story should be made on the merits of the story and not because of a personal animus toward a journalist or because President Trump simply does not like what is being reported. And as of August 2018, the President has never offered a reasoned argument as to why any story he does not like is “fake news.” He merely labels it as such and leaves it at that. And that doesn’t include many of the President’s tweets and factual statements that have proven to be false.

The American people deserve good factual reporting in order to make informed decisions. Having an independent and free press that is willing to contradict and criticize the current presidential administration contributes to an informed electorate. Knowing President Trump’s struggles with being truthful, the concerted response and effort by more than 300 newspaper editorial boards illustrates the wide disapproval of the President’s “fake news” tactics. This move by newspaper editorial boards across the nation helps to clarify that reliable news and info can come from other sources than just the President and that the best approach to confronting critical stories is with reasoned and merit based arguments instead of dismissing them out of hand with an insulting label. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact


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