President Trump’s War Against the Media Doesn’t Compare to Obama’s
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In a mid-February press conference, United States President Donald Trump launched a verbal assault on the media. The bbc, cnn and New York Times all took major blows. The president isn’t shy about his disapproval of major media. But so far, his hostility toward the press manifests itself in angry tweets and childish banter at press conferences. This is nothing, however, when compared to Barack Obama’s war against dissenting journalists.
In the Baltimore Sun earlier this month, David Zurawik had a piece titled “Trump’s War on Press No Match for Obama’s”:
[I]n fairness to Trump, his administration has not escalated the conflict with the press to a new level. It has not yet come close to doing what President Obama’s administration did in making the act of reporting itself criminal behavior in a case that started in 2009 under the Espionage Act of 1917.
Zurawik went back to the case of James Rosen, a Fox News correspondent in Washington. Rosen was given information about North Korea from someone in the State Department. The Justice Department filed a subpoena to access Rosen’s phone and computer records. In the subpoena, the Department of Justice called Rosen “an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator.” Zurawk continued:
Branding a reporter that way in court documents had never been done by the government. Since the case was widely reported, I am surprised an act that really was unprecedented was overlooked by so many pundits in making their worst-ever analyses.
New York Times reporter James Risen was also hit by the Obama administration’s media crackdown. In December 2016 he wrote an article titled “If Donald Trump Targets Journalists, Thank Obama”:
Over the past eight years, the administration has prosecuted nine cases involving whistle-blowers and leakers, compared with only three by all previous administrations combined. It has repeatedly used the Espionage Act, a relic of World War i-era red-baiting, not to prosecute spies but to go after government officials who talked to journalists.
Under Mr. Obama, the Justice Department and the fbi have spied on reporters by monitoring their phone records, labeled one journalist an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal case for simply doing reporting, and issued subpoenas to other reporters to try to force them to reveal their sources and testify in criminal cases.
Risen expanded on his own run-in with the Obama administration. “I experienced this firsthand when the administration tried to compel me to testify to reveal my confidential sources in a criminal leak investigation.”
The Justice Department finally relented—even though it had already won a seven-year court battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court to force me to testify—most likely because they feared the negative publicity that would come from sending a New York Times reporter to jail.
Another case happened in 2013 when Obama’s Justice Department subpoenaed Associated Press reporters for two months of their 2012 private phone records. AP said it was a serious interference with its “constitutional rights to gather and report the news.”
Mr. Obama came down on the press in an unprecedented way. His administration not only prosecuted journalists but also bragged about intentionally misleading the press.
Who could forget Obama White House adviser Ben Rhodes’s “manufactured” story about Iranian President Hassan Rouhani being a moderate? Rhodes admitted that he built an “echo chamber” in the White House in order to sell the story to the media. He said, “[T]he average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”
The Obama administration knew how to play the media and prosecuted anyone who challenged it.
In his recent book Great Again, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote:
Mr. Obama repeatedly said how transparent his administration would be—yet virtually everything he has done has been in the dark. Many journalists have complained that his has been the most opaque administration in history.
It is impossible to measure the damage that such deception has wreaked on the fabric of our politics and our society. But nobody seems to care.
Major media view President Trump as America’s biggest threat. Mr. Trump’s war on the media hasn’t come near what Obama’s was. But if he ever crosses that threshold, thank Mr. Obama for opening the door.
We cannot be too quick to forget Mr. Obama’s legacy. This man radically transformed America in ways that will not be undone by any politician. To learn how and why, read Mr. Flurry’s booklets Great Again and America Under Attack.