Trump Vows to Sue New York Times in Latest Show of Disregard for Freedom of Press

May 19, 2016


Robert McChesney

media analyst and professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the Department of Communication. He co-founded Free Press.

We get reaction from media scholar Robert McChesney to news that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is reportedly considering suing The New York Times after it ran a major report on his past treatment of women, and has vowed to make it easier to sue news organizations. Lawsuits are not the solution, McChesney says. "Instead, it’s to broaden it, enrich it, create new voices and fund new voices, so we actually have a diverse marketplace of ideas … Donald Trump’s view is the exact opposite: It’s either my way or the highway."


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: On Saturday, the Republican political operative and Trump supporter, Roger Stone, accused CNN of censoring stories about Bill Clinton’s treatment of women, and suggested Trump should shut CNN down if he’s elected president.

ROGER STONE: You have organizations like CNN, which is not a news organization but an advocacy group, and if you attempt to discuss this on the air—and I’ve seen this done, with Steve Malzberg and Kurt Schlichter and yours truly—they literally pull—they pull the cord on your microphone; they turn you off. Frankly, when Donald Trump is president, he should turn off their FCC license. They’re not a news organization. And they’re about censorship.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Roger Stone, who is also the source on the National Enquirer stories against Donald Trump’s opponents. Your response to what he’s saying?

ROBERT McCHESNEY: Well, they don’t get an FCC license, to begin with, so he doesn’t know the elements of how this works. And so—

AMY GOODMAN: Explain that.

ROBERT McCHESNEY: Well, it’s a cable channel; it’s not a licensed broadcaster with airwaves, where you get a license. So their deal is with the cable companies, and, you know, it’s not a direct license by the government. But the idea that you would censor to solve a problem like this is absurd and antithetical, I think, to any tradition I’m interested in.

But I do think he raises a very important point, which is a real concern, which is, in the case of Hillary Clinton, you know, she did, for example, a massive corporate shakedown tour after leaving the State Department and before formally announcing for president in 2015, where she did 90 talks, largely to corporations, for at least $100,000 a pop, that all went into her private bank account. She made $21 million in personal profit while she’s planning her run for president unofficially. And no one else has ever done this before. It’s extraordinary. It’s not just three Goldman Sachs talks. It’s 90 talks to the largest corporations in the country, and it’s many in Canada. And this is totally uninvestigated. This is known fact. This has been reported once or twice, it’ll show up periodically, but then it drops to the bottom of the ocean. And good journalists shouldn’t let it drop to the bottom of the ocean. So I think there’s legitimate concerns that they’ve not really pursued the issues they could have, and I think he’s right to make that point.

And this also touches on another issue. You know, the Hillary campaign has—and the corporate media—belabored the point that Bernie’s been so hard on Hillary. Oh, he’s just so mean to her. He’s being unfair to her, and he’s weakening her for Donald Trump in the fall. In fact, he hasn’t even touched any of these issues to speak of. He only mentions her briefly in his speeches, and never in a derogatory sense, as de rigueur for Donald Trump to talk about his opponents. If Hillary Clinton thinks Bernie Sanders is tough on her, wait until she sees what’s coming around the corner.

AMY GOODMAN: Donald Trump is reportedly considering suing The New York Times after it ran a major report on Trump’s past treatment of women. At a campaign rally in February, Trump vowed to make it easier to sue news organizations.

DONALD TRUMP: I’m going to open up our libel laws, so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. We’re going to open up those libel laws, so that when The New York Times writes a hit piece, which is a total disgrace, or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Donald Trump. Bob McChesney?

ROBERT McCHESNEY: Well, I think that’s vintage Donald Trump. This sounds like something on a bar stool or something. He’ll just come up with some idea. And also, he wants to use litigation on suing, which is his specialty, as that’s his history, is winning through lawsuit. I think that’s an outrage. And again, you know I’m probably as critical of these news media as anyone. But the solution to our problem with news media is not to tie them up in lawsuits, with lots of lawyers and legal fees, and try to intimidate them and shut down news media, what remain of news media. Instead, it’s to broaden it, enrich it, create new voices and fund new voices, so we actually have a diverse marketplace of ideas and we have people who normally are cut out of the picture have an opportunity to participate. And Donald Trump’s view is the exact opposite: It’s either my way or the highway. I think that’s completely outrageous.

AMY GOODMAN: After The New York Times piece about his attitude toward women, now he has escalated, and on Fox last night, in talking to Sean Hannity, he is talking about President Clinton’s past behavior and now using the word "rape" when it comes to allegations of President Clinton and what he did.

ROBERT McCHESNEY: Oh, is there a clip for me to listen to?


ROBERT McCHESNEY: Oh, I thought—usually I have a clip. Well, yeah, he’s going to—you know, Donald Trump is, if nothing else, a master at controlling the media dialogue. He knows what they want. He knows how to feed the beast. And so, stories that they wouldn’t touch with a 100-foot pole, Donald Trump makes front and center, and he’s going to keep them there as long as he wants. And again, what—the solution to this, if you have journalists, is to investigate them, investigate the charges, and report on them, and also to do the same to Donald Trump’s side, so it’s an equal playing field. Their specialty, on the other hand, is simply to announce the charges one candidate—in this case, Trump—makes, and then allow Hillary Clinton to deny them or her camp to deny them. It goes back and forth, but there’s no real journalism that goes on in the process. And that’s the great weak spot, what’s missing in action in the campaign coverage.

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