On my first day in the White House — very memorable days, of course, because I only served 11 of them — President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger says Trump 'winning' because so many Republicans 'have remained silent' Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol MORE turned to me in the Oval Office and said, “Man, what do you think happened? I had such a great relationship with the media for the last 45 years. Why do you think things have turned so nasty?”
For starters, then-Trump adviser Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonHouse panel probing Jan. 6 attack seeks Trump records Has Trump beaten the system? Trump discussed pardoning Ghislaine Maxwell: book MORE had declared war on the media at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) early in 2017 and said it was part of the opposition party. Additionally, the president had embarrassed most of the media the previous November by winning the election — despite their collective jeers. That hurt the egos of many intellectuals who got something so major so wrong.
Harvard University did a study and found the media had set “a new standard for unfavorable press coverage” with Trump; the Media Research Center found 91 percent of media coverage biased against President Trump.
These factors contributed to the president — and his ardent supporters — exclaiming that the press is the enemy of the people.
I too have been victimized by an improperly sourced story that was false and effectively caused three journalists to be removed from CNN. I was tabloided after I was fired, lit up on late-night comedy, and have read more than one story about myself that was unflattering, untrue and, in my mind, unfair.
As a result of all of this, I believe I have some standing when I say: The press, Mr. President, is not the enemy of the people.
In many ways, the press is the savior of the republic and one of the cornerstone ingredients that has led the great American experiment to prosperity and power over its 243 years. The press may be flawed, it may offer bias, it may be self-righteous and sanctimonious and highly critical, but it is serving the exact purpose that the country's Founders wanted.
The press, and I mean all of it, is the guardian of individual liberty.
Some of my fellow Trump supporters will be upset with these statements. They will say that President Trump means only the “fake news” media, and they will parse his statements, will take cover and find justification behind those distinctions. I do not agree.
President Trump is the leader of the free world and controls the bully pulpit and most of the news cycle, both foreign and domestic. He serves at the top of the longest-standing democratic republic on Earth. He knows better, and he should stop punching down with his ire and, instead, start using his rhetoric the way he did in his State of the Union: to be inclusive, optimistic and aspirational.
The Founders made the First Amendment first for a reason. They saw the destructive, sclerotic forces of tyranny in the Old World and they wanted to make the New World a place that protected the most sacred minority on earth: the individual.
Individual rights and personal freedom unleash tremendous innovation and happiness. Autocracy squelches the individual and brings with it a dullness to life, while individual freedom brings a fullness. In order to check those in power, we need a free press.
We all know that power is corruptive. I have seen it first hand; people often act nuts when they obtain any sort of power. Nuts and corrupt. The press is there to check them and to hold them accountable to the people whom they are not ruling but serving.
Whatever its biases or opinions, too bad — the press has the right. And I am so very proud to live in a country where it does.
When the president rails about the press and suggests it is the enemy, he scares Americans. While he is far from a tyrant and has done a terrific job as president, he needs to stop doing this. It sounds like an echo of long-ago autocrats and some contemporary ones.
Mr. President, if you want to win again — and I am certain you do, and likely will — you need to stop calling reporters the enemy. It is a turnoff to moderates and independents and constitutionally-minded Republicans who would like to vote for you.
Another important point: Teaching our children to speak freely enables them to think freely. This is an advantage we have over China, and one of the main reasons we have so much economic growth and technological innovation. Mr. President, switch gears on this and course-correct. It will improve your approval ratings and likability. Invite Joe and Mika to lunch.
I also have one cautionary piece of advice for my friends in the media: Work harder to make the stories more accurate and airtight; otherwise, you run the risk of further eroding your credibility.
The biases against the president, I am sorry to say, already have done damage to the media’s image. The media needs a course correction, too. A little less anger and grievance — and a little more objectivity — would go a very long way to making the discourse less coarse.
It is a great time to be alive and to be an American. We have to stand for the principles that have made us so great. The free press is one of those. It is a beacon burning bright that has led to so much of what is right about our great country.