Dan Gilmore / Feb. 29, 2016

Trump Wants to Silence Dissent

Just like a dictator of a third-world country.

Just like a dictator of a third-world country, Donald Trump can’t stand anyone criticizing him. That’s why on Friday, Trump told his cheering acolytes that he wants to rewrite the nation’s libel laws so he can sue newspapers and journalists he thinks are unfair. “One of the things I’m gonna do if I win,” Trump said, “is 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’ll open up those libel laws so that when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post … writes a hit piece we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they are totally protected.”

Trump knows a thing or two about suing journalists for libel. He lost a libel lawsuit in 2011 after a journalist wrote Trump was only worth $250 million, not the billions the reality TV personality claimed. All of Trump’s money and all of Trump’s men couldn’t prevail against a lone book author because the statement couldn’t be proved false. In other words, truth is the defense against a libel lawsuit. This is a principle established at the dawn of our nation’s founding when a colonial governor attempted to shut down a newspaper published by John Peter Zenger in 1734. The jury ruled that a statement cannot be libelous if it’s true. But reality isn’t where Trump wants to be right now.

Furthermore, Trump’s “reasoning” that the media is unfair and that’s a reason for suing them for everything they’ve got does not take into account the state of newspapers during the start of our nation. As Hot Air’s Taylor Millard points out, newspapers then were wildly partisan, championed agendas and were set up by the powerful to attack other papers. (So sort of like today.) “Balance” and “fairness” wasn’t in the vocabulary of those early journalists, yet that is the environment that gave birth to the First Amendment and its protections we have today — an environment Trump cannot tolerate.

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