Former President Donald Trump wants Comcast investigated for “treason” in the event he is elected President. Such hyperbolic rhetoric continues the disintegration of our national identity into tribalism. Treason once upon a time meant assisting an enemy such as Germany, Japan, or the Soviet Union.
Al-Qaida propagandist Adam Gadahn, aka Abu Azzam al-Amriki, the last American indicted for treason prior to being neutralized in a drone operation authorized by former President Barack Obama, notably ran the terrorist group’s media arm.
Trump Waxes Hyperbolic on Charging Comcast With ‘Treason’
No fraudulent reporting, no matter how bad it is, amounts to treason. Until the Trump years, the term almost never was bandied about in a casual way. The former president should not play the same game as Democrats who have casually and debatably unwarrantedly thrown the term around.
“[t]hey are almost all dishonest and corrupt, but Comcast, with its one-side and vicious coverage by NBC NEWS, and in particular MSNBC, often and correctly referred to as MSDNC (Democrat National Committee!), should be investigated for its ‘Country Threatening Treason. I say up front, openly, and proudly, that when I WIN the Presidency of the United States, they and others of the LameStream Media will be thoroughly scrutinized for their knowingly dishonest and corrupt coverage of people, things, and events. The Fake News Media should pay a big price for what they have done to our once great Country!” Trump wrote on Truth Social.
Presidents Always Have Faced False Reporting
Presidents have faced yellow journalism since the earliest days of the Republic. Barring such reporting would be a stab against the First Amendment. President John Adams accused his then Vice President Thomas Jefferson of being “the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father” in their 1800 campaign in an attempt to turn racism against Jefferson.
Even George Washington complained to Alexander Hamilton in a 1795 letter that he wanted to retire as president due “to a disinclination to be longer buffitted in the public prints by a set of infamous scribblers.”
Setting a Horrible Precedent
It would create a horrible precedent whereby a future Democratic President could indict a Republican-owned media outlet that speaks ill or delivers fabricated reporting with treason.
We have libel laws and other actions at our disposal to correct the record.
Torrents of false reporting about the Russia Collusion narrative tarnished Trump’s record despite the fact they had no basis in fact. Whether someone like Trump could sue a media organization or not for tarnishing his reputation after leaving office is a different story. The 1982 case of Westmoreland v. CBS News offers a precedent because it involved a senior government official who sued due to what he believed was defamatory and false coverage.
Former Army Chief of Staff William Westmoreland lost that case, in which he claimed that a 1982 documentary about the Vietnam War had inaccurately depicted him because of his status as a public figure.
Trump previously called for libel laws to be changed to protect public figures from defamation.
“The media plays a critical role in our political system. Despite false stories in the last few years, the media often serves to check government abuse by uncovering waste, lies, and unlawful conduct from the Pentagon Papers to Watergate,” George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley writes. “Notably, it is unlikely that there is a “there there” in any investigation other than bias. The lock-step coverage of the media from the false Russian collusion claims to false stories like the migrant whipping story is due to the loss of objectivity in journalism. It is consensual rather than conspiratorial. It is also wrong, but that wrong will not be righted by unleashing the government on the media.”
Turley: Press Freedom a Hallmark of Our Republic
Turley notes that he is an equal opportunity opponent of hyperbolic rhetoric and politically charged rhetoric. He has strongly criticized media that have improperly characterized the January 6 Capitol Riot as “an insurrection” and thrown the term “traitor” around at Trump or his opponents.
“The defining moment for this country came with the trial of publisher John Peter Zenger by the Crown in New York. Gov. William Cosby used language very similar to Trump’s in unleashing his government on the newspaper. Cosby declared that the paper was publishing “divers scandalous, virulent, false and seditious reflections.” He ordered four editions to be burned publicly,” Turley wrote. “The jury refused to allow the abuse and acquitted Zenger. From that time, respect for the independence of the press has remained part of our DNA despite our disagreements with coverage.”
About the Author
John Rossomando is a defense and counterterrorism analyst and served as Senior Analyst for Counterterrorism at The Investigative Project on Terrorism for eight years. His work has been featured in numerous publications such as The American Thinker, The National Interest, National Review Online, Daily Wire, Red Alert Politics, CNSNews.com, The Daily Caller, Human Events, Newsmax, The American Spectator, TownHall.com, and Crisis Magazine. He also served as senior managing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily newspaper in Philadelphia, and received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award for his reporting.