This post is periodically updated with new attacks on the media by the president.
Donald Trump has pledged to defend the Constitution — even an article that doesn’t exist — but he can’t seem to lay off that pesky First Amendment.
Trump has mocked the First Amendment’s right to freedom of religion by calling for a ban on Muslims from entering the country and criticized those who believe in the freedom of speech as “foolish people.” He has endorsed attacks on protesters and the imprisonment of people who burn the flag. He has attempted to silence and marginalize his critics by forcing staff, and even interns, to sign unconstitutional non-disclosure agreements and revoking, or threatening to revoke, the security clearances of former administration officials. His administration has also proposed to dramatically limit the right to protest near the White House and on the National Mall.
And Trump has made it very clear that he doesn’t stand for the freedom of the press. As a presidential candidate, he told supporters he would “open up our libel laws” to sue journalists. “We’re going to have people sue you like you’ve never got sued before,” he promised.
Trump the candidate also blacklisted reporters and entire news outlets from campaign events, referred to journalists as “scum” and “slime,” and mocked a reporter for having a disability. He vowed to sue women who reported incidents of sexual harassment and assault, along with the outlets that covered their accounts, and threatened a lawsuit against a Hispanic journalist group for calling out his bigoted remarks.
“I would never kill them but I do hate them,” he said of reporters. “And some of them are such lying, disgusting people.”
This onslaught didn’t stop once Trump assumed the presidency. From the most powerful perch on the planet, he has continued to wage attacks on the free press, further revealing his authoritarian impulses and disdain for the First Amendment.
Below we provide a running list of attacks that the president has made on the press since assuming office. We’ll keep this list updated since, unfortunately, we don’t expect them to stop.
- Praised a violent attack on a reporter by Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte.
- Presided over a Justice Department investigation in which years’ worth of email and phone records belonging to a New York Times reporter were seized in connection with a leak investigation.
- Threatened to change libel laws to make it easier to sue publishers and news organizations following the release of an unflattering book.
- Threatened legal action against a journalist and publisher over a book that includes critical statements about him.
- Demanded the Washington Post fire a reporter over an inaccurate tweet about the crowd size at a Trump rally, which the reporter apologized for and deleted.
- Urged people to sue ABC News over a retracted report, which Trump claimed caused the stock market to fall and investors to lose money.
- On the day that Russia enacted restrictions on foreign news outlets, tweeted: “CNN International is still a major source of (Fake) news, and they represent our Nation to the WORLD very poorly. The outside world does not see the truth from them!” He then called for a contest between CNN and other outlets, apart from Fox, to see which has “the most dishonest, corrupt and/or distorted in its political coverage of your favorite President (me).”
- Said it is “frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write” in a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
- Threatened to cancel the broadcast licenses of media companies that offer negative coverage of him.
- Had the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, call on ESPN to fire Jemele Hill for criticizing him.
- Tweeted mocking images of him wrestling a CNN reporter and his campaign hitting a CNN reporter with a train.
- Overseen a Justice Department review of policies for subpoenaing media organizations in an effort to crack down on both whistleblowers and journalists. As of November 2017, investigations of leaks by the department reportedly grew 800 percent under Jeff Sessions.
- Pledged to “fight the #FakeNews” with a Polish leader hostile to press freedom.
- Attacked reporters while speaking with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has fostered a climate of violence against journalists.
- Said that his mission to “drain the swamp” begins “with the Fake News!”
- Reportedly asked then-FBI Director James Comey to jail reporters who publish classified information.
- Tasked his former chief of staff with looking into changing the country’s libel laws.
- Explored the prosecution of WikiLeaks for publishing CIA and State Department materials.
- Labeled the “fake news” media “the enemy of the people.”
- Accused the media of lying about his “very nice” conversation with the Australian prime minister. Ultimately, a leaked transcript of the call showed it was Trump who was lying.
- Urged someone to buy the New York Times to “either run it correctly or let it fold.”
- Said members of the “Fake News & totally dishonest Media” have “become crazed lunatics who have given up on the TRUTH!”
- Threatened to pull credentials of reporters who write “negative” stories about him while admitting he considers negative media coverage to be “Fake”: “91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake). Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt? Take away credentials?”
- Called for a federal investigation into “Saturday Night Live” after watching a rerun of an episode parodying him.
- Wondered why “the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution?”
- Tweeted that the “Fake News is the absolute Enemy of the People and our Country itself!”
- Unsuccessfully tried to rescind the press credentials of CNN journalist Jim Acosta.
- Said that he is “entitled” to have “great” stories published about him in the New York Times.
- Lauded Brazil’s authoritarian president for denouncing the “fake news.”
- Announced plans to boycott presidential debates held by “Fake News Networks.”
While Trump tries to portray journalists at the “enemies” of Americans, it’s his attacks on the press that amount to an assault on the cornerstone of American democracy: the First Amendment.