We cannot allow ourselves to shrug off President Trump’s attacks on the press. Ever. They are undemocratic and are at the point of inviting, even inciting, violence. To say this again, now, is to repeat something I and others have said many times before. But it bears repeating. It demands repeating.
Last night, there was Trump again on attack mode, whipping up the crowd into a frenzy. He will explain it away, as he always does. But we must be clear. Reveling in the raucous chorus of democracy is one thing. That is not what this is. This is about undermining accountability and deflecting from honest and fair questions. It is about preparing his base to deny truth and the justice that it may inevitably bring.
Facing the taunts and harassment, yet again, was CNN’s Jim Acosta. To watch the video makes me sick. I can feel the hairs on the back of my neck rise in fury. I have known Jim for many years and worked with him. He is a pro who knows a reporter’s job is to ask probing questions and be persistent in doing so. He and many others in the White House press corps are doing hard work in difficult trench warfare.
For many reasons, none of them fair, Acosta has come to symbolize the idea of “the enemy of the people” to many Trump supporters. He is on point, out front and the reporter the powerful hate most and have him in their bull’s eye. He’s in the most danger, professionally and personally—and perhaps even physically. Unwavering support from CNN’s corporate ownership is essential, but so is support from his colleagues, his competitors, and the public at large. Journalism is an inexact science. There is no perfection. But Jim does it better than most.
Meanwhile, his critics will look for any slip up, real or imagined, to pounce. He’s in a cage with big, dangerous cats. He has to be alert and careful to survive.
But I will tell you one thing. If violence ever comes to the press in this environment, President Trump will be personally accountable.