President Donald Trump started off his Sunday by suggesting the media should have to answer in court for the “nothing less than unfair news coverage” that he is subjected to.
Trump cited in particular NBC and the network’s Saturday Night Live sketch comedy show, tweeting, “Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal?”
A REAL scandal is the one sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live. It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal? Only defame & belittle! Collusion?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 16, 2018
The president, not known for his command of civics, might not be familiar with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which says “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”
Trump has made a habit of using Twitter to threaten the libel laws that prevent the reporting of knowingly false information.
Isn’t it a shame that someone can write an article or book, totally make up stories and form a picture of a person that is literally the exact opposite of the fact, and get away with it without retribution or cost. Don’t know why Washington politicians don’t change libel laws?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2018
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 30, 2017
Trump also suggested NBC’s broadcasting license could be at risk in a September tweet even though “there is little that he or his administration could do to carry out the threat.”
NBC FAKE NEWS, which is under intense scrutiny over their killing the Harvey Weinstein story, is now fumbling around making excuses for their probably highly unethical conduct. I have long criticized NBC and their journalistic standards-worse than even CNN. Look at their license?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 4, 2018
ThinkProgress reached out out to NBC for comment but had not received a response at the time of publication.
ThinkProgress’ Ryan Koronowski has detailed Trump’s history of displeasure with laws that protect the media.
In 2016, Trump was asked if the First Amendment provided “too much protection.” He lamented that “our press is allowed to say whatever they want,” and explained why he preferred libel laws in the United Kingdom, where someone suing a media company has a better chance of prevailing because a defendant in a libel case must prove their statements are true. In the U.S., the plaintiff must prove a statement is false, and that the statement was made with deliberate, malicious intent.
In April 2017, then-White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said that the administration had “looked at” changing libel laws.
Trump’s administration also revoked the White House credential of CNN’s Jim Acosta last month, using a doctored video to explain the reporter’s ban for the “inappropriate behavior” of not letting an aide rip a microphone out of his hands. A Trump-appointed judge later restored Acosta’s White House access.
Legal scholar Jennifer Taub reacted to Trump’s tweet by suggesting he read the First Amendment, which the president has previously claimed “nobody loves” more than him.
Sir, thank you for this Twitter-tisement for SNL. I fell asleep before the show aired and would have forgotten to watch had it not been for your reminder. Regarding the legal "issues" you have raised here, may I refer you to the First Amendment to the Constitution. Enjoy!
— Jennifer Taub (@jentaub) December 16, 2018
The president’s remarks follow a difficult week for the White House that included the revelation federal prosecutors are investigating his inaugural committee, the revelation of his shady deal with the National Enquirer to push propaganda during the 2016 election, the sentencing of his former attorney — Michael Cohen — to three years in prison amid the allegation that Trump — or “Individual 1” — directed a felony, settling for an interim chief of staff after being turned down by his top choices, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) fact-checking Trump in the Oval Office, and a Senate vote to rebuke his administration and end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen.
The Washington Post reported on Saturday that “nearly every organization (Trump) has led in the past decade is under investigation.”
After the president spent much of his Saturday on Twitter attacking the media and celebrating the demise of the conservative Weekly Standard, the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman wondered how reporters are supposed to provide “positive” coverage of Trump’s recent scandals.
What is the positive version of a story about federal prosecutors saying a president directed hush money as a candidate? Or multiple investigations into Cabinet members? These are objectively not “positive” fact sets. https://t.co/whWzMNE5Gg
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) December 15, 2018