WASHINGTON: Donald Trump has had tense ties with reporters since launching his presidential campaign one year ago Thursday, but he took it a dramatic step further this week by banning The Washington Post from his events.
The presumptive Republican nominee’s campaign has banned at least a dozen news organizations, a disturbing trend that media groups say highlights his disdain for free speech enshrined in the US Constitution’s First Amendment.
Trump assails newspapers that anger him as “failing” enterprises that are “pure scum.”
At rallies during primary season, he lashed out at journalists as “dishonest” and “sleaze.” Some were threatened by Trump supporters, others manhandled by security personnel or Trump staff.
When a reporter crosses an invisible line, he yanks their credentials.
“If people don’t cover me fairly, or if they actually make things up, I don’t know why anybody should be allowed” into his events, Trump told The New York Times, which wrote that the White House hopeful “casts himself as punisher in chief.”
Trump’s ban on the Post apparently stemmed from his disapproval of its story—reported after the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida by a radicalized gunman—stating that Trump seemed to suggest that President Barack Obama sympathized with terrorists.
The action against the award-winning newspaper could be considered just the latest in a string of vengeful responses by a thin-skinned candidate, but it was met with incredulity and alarm by some.
“Even Saddam Hussein didn’t revoke the @washingtonpost press credentials,” tweeted former national editor Rajiv Chandrasekaran, who covered the Iraq war for the newspaper.
Others noted how president Richard Nixon never barred the paper from the White House, even at the lowest points of his presidency after the Post historically broke the story about the 1970s Watergate scandal.
Trump himself sounded gleeful about the ban during a rally in Greensboro, North Carolina on Tuesday.
“I love it! We just took the press credentials away from the dishonest Washington Post,” he boomed, to cheers and laughter.
Trump has routinely assailed news outlets in his Twitter posts, ranting about their liberal bias and poor editorial decisions.
“I predict that dying @UnionLeader newspaper, which has been run into the ground by publisher “Stinky” Joe McQuaid, will be dead in 2 years!” he wrote in December, speaking of the New Hampshire paper.
He denied credentials to the Des Moines Register, Iowa’s largest newspaper, after its editorial board urged him to quit the race.
In one of the most notable clashes, Trump had Jorge Ramos of Univision, the best-known Hispanic reporter in the United States, ejected from a press event last year when Ramos repeatedly questioned his immigration policies.
“Go back to Univision,” Trump seethed.
Ramos, who has interviewed several US presidents and Latin American leaders, was eventually allowed back inside. But the incident highlighted Trump’s penchant to tangle with journalists he dislikes.
Politico has repeatedly incurred Trump’s wrath. It said its reporter Ben Schreckinger was prevented from entering a Trump news conference in March and “escorted off of the property” even after he was granted campaign credentials.
Similar bans have been placed on reporters from Buzzfeed, The Daily Beast, Foreign Policy, Gawker, Huffington Post, Mother Jones and others.
“If the goal is to squelch independent journalism about Trump it certainly won’t work,” Politico editor Susan Glasser said in a statement.
The Standing Committee of Correspondents, which covers Congress, said Trump was engaging in “troubling pattern” by punishing journalists who seek to hold public officials and candidates like him accountable.
“Candidates should respond to such scrutiny with facts and arguments, not by banning the messenger,” the committee said.
Post opinion writer Dana Milbank suggested a more direct approach by the media.
“There is, happily, a just and appropriate response to Trump’s blacklist: a Trump blackout,” he wrote on the Post’s website, urging an end to wall-to-wall live coverage of Trump rallies and Trump call-ins to television shows.
“For those journalists and media executives who still don’t share the view of Post Executive Editor Martin Baron that Trump’s action ‘is nothing less than a repudiation of the role of a free and independent press,’ it won’t be long before Trump comes for you, too,” Milbank added.