Does Donald Trump Understand the Role of the Press in a Free Country?

by Heather Robinson

FOX News should be commended for standing by Megyn Kelly and refusing to cede to Donald Trump’s demand that she be removed as a moderator of this evening’s Republican candidates’ debate, which starts at 9 pm.

While there is some contradictory information out there, indicators suggest that the network’s professionalism may cost it financially.

Fox News should be commended for doing the right thing here, in terms of journalistic ethics and professionalism. If FOX was really a propaganda network as many leftists claim and they were only about money, and not journalism, they would not have stood by their moderator/reporter. On the left, the real provocateurs/activists like Michael Moore, who recently appeared on Kelly’s show, seem to understand this. (Like him or not, clearly Moore, as someone who confronts the powerful and asks them uncomfortable questions, respected her for doing so).

I’ve written this before but feel it can’t really be overstated: the role of the press in our democracy is to be watchdog, not lapdog. The main function of the press is not to uncritically cater to candidates or endlessly provide them with free advertising. While reporters are not supposed to be operating from personal bias (and I don’t believe Kelly was or is), even if hypothetically they were, it is better that they should be aggressive in vetting candidates and imperfect in their motives than that they should than sycophantic, uncritical, and timid kissups toward government, including those who would wish to earn the public’s trust. Memo to The Donald: reluctance to criticize or be confrontational is the way the press operates in a dictatorship, not in a democracy.

The Founding Founders crafted the First Amendment to be almost absolute in its protection of speech: as a hedge against corruption, and to ensure that the power remained with the people, who are free to reject anyone in government who is not serving the people’s interests.

Donald Trump, in demanding that Megyn Kelly be “nice” to him, seems either unable or unwilling to understand that being “nice” to him or even perfectly fair and even in her treatment of each candidate, is not her highest priority, and can’t be. He might legitimately comment that he thinks she was harder on him than other candidates, etc. That is his right. He can also throw tantrums when journalists ask him uncomfortable questions. He also has the right to call her every name in the book, but it doesn’t reflect well on him, in my opinion, because it does not suggest he has any understanding of the most crucial function of the press in a free society. It is supposed to be adversarial, not uncritical and obedient, in its relationship to those who would exercise power. In the U.S., the people are in charge, not politicians, no matter how wealthy.

Maybe it’s because Trump is a master of manipulating media, and in recent years, much media has operated with more concern for the financial bottom line than for its higher purposes (disseminating information, monitoring government, taking on corruption, etc.) Perhaps Trump, who has received so much adulation and free advertisement from media, has gotten spoiled by that. But, now that he is actually running for public office, there are other ideals and real issues at stake. He is no longer auditioning to be entertainer on a hit show, but wants to be President, and people want to know what they are getting in a leader, in terms of values and temperament. That is why Kelly’s critical questioning was relevant, and important.

In many places around the world, journalists are being jailed, beaten, tortured and killed for what they write about powerful people, and even for asking questions that people in power do not want asked. In the U.S., people like Trump may only have the power to deride journalists like Megyn Kelly for asking him questions he’d rather not be asked.

It is his right to call her every name in the book, but it doesn’t reflect well on him or his understanding of her role, in my opinion. And it makes you wonder what else he’d do to shut her up if he could.

Fox News did the right thing here.

Really looking forward to hearing from some of the other candidates tonight.


This entry was written by and posted on January 28, 2016 at 8:03 pm and filed under Blog. permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Keywords: , , . Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. */?>