In a new piece for the Daily Beast, editor in large Lloyd Grove laments that the “worst part of Trump’s war on the press” is “it’s working.”
It’s alarming enough that tens of thousands of reporters, editors, researchers, and photographers, among others, are losing their jobs as more and more news outlets are being forced to shut down amid the economic carnage of the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected and even killed a growing number of journalists.
All of which is hardly cause for the news media’s alleged “glee” and “delight” at the nationwide spread of COVID-19—the offensive claim of failed Republican presidential candidate-turned Donald Trump devotee Marco Rubio.
“I’m very concerned about the future of American public support for fact-based journalism,” the report’s author, former Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr., told The Daily Beast. “I’m really worried that what’s going on really is an existential threat to press freedom in the United States.”
President Donald Trump’s relentless denigration of journalists—calling them “scum,” “lowlifes,” “corrupt,” “dishonest,” “fake news,” and other choice epithets—has been largely effective, Downie said.
“He is doing this, as he has said [to CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl], in order to convince the public that they should not believe anything that’s written about him that he doesn’t like,” said Downie, whose report cites a recent Pew Research Center study showing that “Trump’s attacks have had the most success in eroding the credibility of the American press among his many millions of supporters.”
“He’s convincing a large part of the American population not to believe the press at a time when the news media is so important as a conveyor of information about what is going on in the pandemic and the response to the pandemic,” Downie said. “It is very dangerous to American democracy if a large part of the population never believes what the press is doing, and particularly doesn’t believe the press when they are trying to hold the government accountable.”
Downie, a professor at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism (and this writer’s former boss at the Post), added: “The corollary to that is many of those people who do not believe the fact-seeking press do believe right-wing media that are not telling the truth.”
He said the president’s penchant for fabricating “alternative facts” (as his senior adviser Kellyanne Conway infamously defended then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer) or simply uttering outright lies—surpassing the 18,000 mark this week, according to the Post’s running count—has become a hallmark of an administration that has little regard for facts and truth.
Read more here.