By: Savin Mattozzi ~Staff Writer~
“Sometimes we can disagree with the facts.” This is not a satire skit, nor is it a quote from a silly movie. These were the exact words from the press secretary to the President of the United States of America when commenting on the size of the audience at the president’s inauguration.
This statement, ironically, came from the same administration who coined the terms “fake news” and “alternative facts.” Just to be clear, facts can neither be alternative, nor can you disagree with them. Facts are facts. If you can disagree with them or offer alternatives to them, they are no longer facts but something called opinions.
Aside from Sean Spicer’s misunderstanding of objective reality, he has become notorious with his treatment of the press. He constantly interrupts and demeans reporters who attempt to ask questions.
When seasoned White House Correspondent April Ryan was attempting to ask a question about U.S. relations with Russia, she was interrupted by Spicer, who told her that at some point “you need to report the facts” and asked her to “stop shaking your head.”
These types of offenses might seem trivial or insignificant to those not in the field of journalism, but this attitude signifies a blatant disregard for the rights of the press. It is the job of a free press to ask difficult and unpopular questions. The purpose of a free press is to keep our government in check and to make sure it is operating in a transparent way.
When government officials disregard the press, censor what they can ask, label questions they ask as “fake news” simply because they themselves don’t agree with it or are embarrassed by things the press has found, this limits the ability of the press to be “free.”
This trend of constantly belittling the press is a common tactic among autocratic and oligarchic governments. The view that this administration resembles dictatorships in terms of its treatment of the press is not a fringe point of view or hyperbole.
In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, Sen. John McCain said, “We need a free press. We must have it. It’s vital. If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times an adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.”
These comments were in response to a tweet Trump posted where he said the press is the “enemy of the American People.”
In previous conferences, Trump has refused to answer questions from a CNN reporter and denounced them as “fake news.” When there was a wave of anti-Semitic attacks across the country, a Jewish reporter asked Trump what the government will do in response to the attacks. He then interrupted the reporter and told him to sit down. Trump went on to say he is “the least anti-Semitic person you will ever meet and the least racist person you will ever meet.”
When the reporter tried to clarify the question, Trump interrupted him and told him to be quiet and that he “lied about being nice and asking a simple question.” It is not, by the way, the responsibility of a journalist to ask simple and easy questions – it is the contrary.
These kinds of comments by the leader of the most powerful country in the world are unacceptable. For someone who claims to want to “make America great again,” it is a fallacy to think that he is going to think so by molding the press to what he thinks it should be and by silencing those who oppose him and his administration or ask critical questions.