California Forum

Election strategy: Attack the press

Wall Street Journal South Asia bureau chief Daniel Pearl, kidnapped and murdered in 2002 by Pakistani terrorists.
Wall Street Journal South Asia bureau chief Daniel Pearl, kidnapped and murdered in 2002 by Pakistani terrorists. AP

A recent story indicated Republicans have a theme for next year’s elections: Attack the news media and trumpet the “public’s hatred of reporters.”

I should say, not literally bodily attack us. But then don’t forget Gene Gianforte in Montana, who body slammed a reporter on his way to Congress.

We can assume these broadsides will follow the lead of President Trump’s nonstop 140-character vilifications of “Fake News Mainstream Media,” as he puts it:

The fake news media ignores the great economic news since the election; it fabricates leaks from the White House; Russian officials must be laughing at the U.S. and how a lame excuse for why the Dems lost the election has taken over the fake news.

Here’s a suggestion: Before joining Trump in blasting the ‘hated reporters,’ visit the Newseum and read the 14 fresh names that have been added to the Journalists Memorial. They represent 48 journalists who died last year doing their jobs.

Or maybe the plan is to further demonize anyone who talks to reporters, whether it’s the Columbia law professor who gave The New York Times the James Comey memo or the 25-year-old NSA leaker who was arrested.

Then they won’t have to defend Trump dumping the Paris Climate Accord and dissing leaders such as Germany’s Merkel and France’s Macron, plus 190 or so others, and aligning his name with Syria’s Bashar Assad. The choice is not Pittsburgh or Paris; it’s preserve (our Earth) or perish.

They won’t have to defend his travel ban aimed at Muslims only, or his failure at the NATO meeting to speak of our commitment to Article 5, which says an attack on one is an attack on all, or his Oval Office ties to Russian brass.

They won’t have to defend his morally offensive and factually wrong tweet aimed at the London mayor, or his relationship with the ousted Michael Flynn, his spasms against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, his firing of FBI Director James Comey or his labeling of the former G-man as “cowardly.”

It is disappointing that the First Amendment is taught in such a perfunctory fashion in schools, but you would expect better from men and women who serve us in Congress, or perhaps not.

So here’s a suggestion: Before blasting the “hated reporters” take a walk down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Newseum and read the 14 fresh names that have been added to the Journalists Memorial. They represent 48 journalists who died last year doing their jobs. According to the Committee of Concerned Journalists, they are among the 1,241 killed since 1992:

Remember the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped and brutally murdered; CBS cameraman Paul Douglas and sound man James Brolan, killed by a car bomb; reporter Kimberly Dozier, critically injured in the same incident; ABC’s Bob Woodruff, who suffered serious head injuries and broken bones; Woodruff’s injured cameraman Doug Vogt; Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll, kidnapped and held for weeks before being released; and more.

Or if you can get a ticket, go see “Hamilton,” the incredible musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda. I don’t know what Miranda’s goal was when he molded Ron Chernow’s wonderfully written bio of Hamilton into a musical. But if it was to reveal how men of vastly different backgrounds and concepts and temperament could meld their differences to create a nation, he crushed it.

And isn’t that what the Hamilton cast was saying with its message to then-Vice President-elect Mike Pence after he saw the show months ago?

“We sir – we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

Perhaps Pence didn’t share the message, or he ignored it, and the only thing left now is to play the press card. So go fish.

Gregory Favre is the former executive editor of The Sacramento Bee and retired vice president of news for The McClatchy Company. gfavre@goldtexter.com

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