Sebastian Gorka and Donald Trump could learn a valuable lesson from Fox News about calling media agencies “fake news” providers.
Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant to President Donald Trump, told CNN earlier this week that the Donald Trump administration will continue calling media outlets “fake news” until the organizations stop negative reporting about the president. It an effort to discredit unfavorable media reports and outlets by labeling them as “fake news,” Sebastian Gorka suggested.
“Every single organ that generates these kinds of stories comes from the same clique of media organs that predicted that Hillary [Clinton] would win and that Brexit wouldn’t occur. I know what fake news is. And it’s coming from those organizations.”
What’s ironic is Donald Trump’s preferred media outlet — Fox News — has been in this boat before, and the chastising the organization did for being referred to as fake news spurred an opinion piece in 2013 that still has value today, perhaps at the expense of both Donald Trump and the media organization itself.
‘It’s Not Okay — Or Presidential’
The Fox News opinion piece — written after President Barack Obama was re-elected to office in 2012 — railed against fake news comments. Calling their disagreement with President Obama’s administration a “war on Fox News,” the writer believed their agency’s fake news epithet was disconcerting.
“Whether you are liberal or conservative, libertarian, moderate or politically agnostic, everyone should be concerned when leaders of our government believe they can intentionally try to delegitimize a news organization they don’t like… This latest volley from the president is just one in a long line of comments from his White House as part of their campaign to silence any dissent they detect in the press corps.”
According to the Fox News opinion piece, for a leader or their administration to contend a news organization was a fake news source was beneath the office Donald Trump currently holds. “[I]t’s not okay — or presidential — to continue smearing an entire network of hard working journalists because you are mad at Sean Hannity.”
While the current situation has not elicited a similar response to CNN and The New York Times — two organizations most often referred to as “fake news” outlets by Donald Trump — the media agencies have responded to the claims in varying ways. The New York Times tweeted that their digital audience and subscribers are “at all-time highs” while CNN issued a statement backing their reports and asking for information to invalidate specific claims.
“We are fully confident in our reporting. It represents the core of what the First Amendment protects, informing the people of the inner workings of their government… Given that members of the Trump transition team have so vocally criticized our reporting, we encourage them to identify, specifically, what they believe to be inaccurate.”
— NYTCo Communications (@NYTimesComm) January 28, 2017
Fake News And A ‘So-Called Judge’
That hasn’t deterred Donald Trump, who has went as far as calling into question a sitting judge’s authority and the media outlets’ polling process in his “fake news” witch hunt. After three polls had revealed that more Americans opposed the travel ban his executive orders put into motion late January, Donald Trump took to Twitter to call the opposing polls “fake news.” The President didn’t stop there as Donald Trump tweeted just moments later that the polls were an attempt by the “FAKE NEWS media” to “lie” and “marginalize” his travel ban.
Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 6, 2017
I call my own shots, largely based on an accumulation of data, and everyone knows it. Some FAKE NEWS media, in order to marginalize, lies!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 6, 2017
The laughable part in calling the election polls fake news is that the media organizations actually got it right. Donald Trump trailed Hillary Clinton in almost every national poll by at least two percentage points heading into the general election. While the outcome of the race was predicted incorrectly, the overall results were accurate as Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly three million votes — 65,853,625 to 62,985,106 — and a margin of 2.1 percent.
Just days earlier, Donald Trump had unleashed a similar tirade to his fake news rants on the justice system and the Seattle-based federal judge that granted a nationwide restraining order to block the travel ban. Donald Trump called “the opinion of this so-called judge” both “ridiculous” and a “terrible decision” over the course of five tweets last weekend. His final message to his 24.2 million Twitter followers was to blame the federal judge and judicial system if a terrorist event occurs during the travel ban’s injunction.
Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 5, 2017
Fake News Aided Donald Trump
What’s ironic about the fake news angle Donald Trump continues to push is its role in getting the President elected in the first place. Buzzfeed reported that in the three months before the election, 17 of the top 20 performing articles were “overtly pro-Donald Trump or anti-Hillary Clinton.” In fact, fake news reports outperformed from 19 major news websites by more than 1.3 million shares or reactions.
Since the presidential election, Donald Trump has redefined fake news from inaccurate and potentially irresponsible reporting to any report that the 70-year-old leader perceives as negative. The move to do so could be a strategic one to help Donald Trump further his agenda, Yahoo! News alluded to this week.
“The confusion and misinformation creates and environment where it is increasingly normal to accept facts only if they conform to one’s own worldview. But something else is at work, as well, many observers say. The penchant to believe fake news is often rooted in a deep-seated feeling of alarm and powerlessness.”
Despite fake news being redefined by President Donald Trump, the real false articles continue to filter into social media with the look of actual reporting. Yet the roles have been reversed now with liberal-slanted articles being among the most-shared items on Facebook. This gives credence to the idea that feeling unable to change their situation — or election results — has led to the increase in fake news sharing among liberals.
Free Speech In Jeopardy?
What scares individuals who believe Donald Trump could turn the American people against specific media agencies is the lack of free speech that could ensue with his continued use of fake news monikers. Donald Trump had already promised to open up the nation’s libel laws in order to make suing news organizations easier during a campaign stop last year.
“I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. We’re going to open up those libel laws so when The New York Times writes a hit piece, which is a total disgrace, or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected. We’re going to open up libel laws and we’re going to have people sue you like you’ve never got sued before.”
While some organizations believe that all speech — including actual “fake news” instead of the Donald Trump variety — will always be protected under the First Amendment, challenges to long-standing principles are already underway under the Donald Trump regime. Prior to becoming President, Donald Trump already had targeted a form of free speech — flag burning — as a crime that should be punishable by jail or stripping the individual’s citizenship.
Why then would Americans not be concerned that Donald Trump may try to limit free speech to a handful of selected media outlets as opposed to the “fake news” organizations (like CNN, ABC, and CBS) he so often references? Fox News summed up the reasons behind free speech best in the 2013 opinion piece. “We defend freedom of the press because of the principle, not because we like everything the press does.”
Will Fox News hold to that principle now that President Donald Trump has taken aim at “fake news” organizations — a position the news organization claimed to experience during “war on Fox News” with President Obama?
[Featured Image by Pool/Getty Images]