In the Trump era, nasty rhetoric, insults and even threats of violence have become an occupational hazard for political reporters and commentators. To be sure, a good portion of President Trump’s verbal attacks on journalists and news organizations might be considered fair game in this bare-knuckled political moment. The president has free-speech rights just like the rest of us, and deeming the news media “the enemy of the American people” and dismissing accurate reports as “fake news” are permissible under the First Amendment.
But the First Amendment does not protect all speech. Although the president can launch verbal tirades against the press, he cannot use the powers of his office to suppress or punish speech he doesn’t like. When President Trump proposes government retribution against news outlets and reporters, his statements cross the line. Worse still, in several cases it appears that the bureaucracy he controls has acted on his demands, making other threats he issues to use his governmental powers more credible. Using the force of the presidency to punish or suppress legally protected speech strikes at the heart of the First Amendment, contravening the Constitution.
…President Trump has engaged repeatedly in precisely the kind of behavior those courts have found unlawful.
…Trump has also repeatedly attacked the Washington Post and threatened to target its owner Jeff Bezos’s biggest holding, Amazon. This spring the president followed through on his threats, ordering the Postal Service to review rates for the online shopping behemoth. Coming in the wake of the president’s eruptions directed at the Post, that order too appears to be punitive.
…Trump threatened to withdraw the press credentials of reporters who criticized him; in August CNN’s Kaitlan Collins was barred from a Rose Garden press conference for asking questions the White House judged impertinent.