Donald Trump launched a clueless salvo at the press today, promising to “take a strong look” at the nation’s libel laws.
The tweeter-in-chief accused the media of “saying things that are false, knowingly false, and be able to smile as the money pours into your bank account." He called country’s libel laws “a sham.” Fake news!!!
The Supreme Court’s 1964 landmark freedom of the press ruling determined that the media couldn’t knowingly report false information about public figures like Trump without taking a legal hit.
The New York Times vs. Sullivan ruling set the malice standard for libel. It held that a publisher would be guilty of defamation or libel if he/she knew the challenged statement was false or acted with reckless disregard of its truth or falsity.
Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN America, which advocates for open and free expression summed it up nicely.
In response to Trump’s knock on the press, she issued this statement:
“This is not the first time President Trump has shaken his fist against our libel laws. In so doing, he is attacking the U.S. Constitution, which represents the gold standard worldwide in terms of protections for freedom of speech. Under the First Amendment people are free to denigrate and offend the President or anyone else, a freedom with which the President should be well-acquainted given his own penchant for insulting political opponents. While he can say what he wants, thankfully the President cannot change our laws, much less amend the Constitution.”
According to Michael Wolff’s "Fire and Fury," Trump never thought he’d wind up in the White House. Note to Donald: Life Happens. Press criticism comes with the territory. Trump better grow some thicker skin.
And of course, Trump took his cheap shot at the libel laws the same day the Washington Post reported that he has made more than 2,000 false or misleading quotes in 355 days in office.
The president should take care of his own fibs before accusing the press of spreading lies.