An August 7 Ipsos poll found that 43 percent of Republicans believe “the president should have the authority to close [down] news outlets engaged in bad behavior.”
These results show that a disturbing number of Republicans are willing to cross the line past media criticism into the dangerous zone of government censorship.
It is certainly true that Republicans are treated unfairly by the media, and they should feel obligated to criticize the press in order to hold it accountable — but censorship is blatantly unconstitutional, and, frankly, un-American.
Historically, the media and Republicans have had anything but a positive relationship, but recently, this relationship has become increasingly toxic. In the age of Donald Trump, many journalists are transforming into activists and some of the same Republicans who claim to be constitutional conservatives are abandoning their commitment to freedom of the press.
The sudden escalation in this never ending feud is hard to ignore, but the truth is that both sides are to blame. Many members of the press view Republicans as brainless — or as one Politico reporter recently mocked — toothless. Meanwhile, many Republicans think the media is trying to brainwash the public with liberal ideas.
One recent example of the GOP’s hostility toward the media was a Trump rally in Florida, where the president’s supporters harassed CNN reporter Jim Acosta. While nobody physically attacked Acosta — and other footage shows Trump supporters shaking hands and taking pictures with the CNN reporter — the mob mentality seen in the viral video and portrayed in the Ipsos poll shows that some Republicans would rather stir the pot of controversy than offer logical, constitutional solutions to their issues with the press.
Jeering at CNN reporters won’t fix the problem of media bias; fact checking will. The majority of Republicans understand this, but the minority who doesn’t seems to be growing by the day. So why is it that the Republican party has become increasingly hostile toward the media?
The obvious elephant in the room (pun intended) is President Donald Trump, who has famously called the press the “enemy of the American people.” The words of one person can never be be the sole cause for the actions of many; however Trump’s careless rhetoric toward the media is clearly a driving factor behind the growing Republican animosity against the media.
But it’s entirely possible to criticize the press without becoming their bitter enemy. Ronald Reagan had his own critiques of the media, which he would often make through light hearted jokes. He did this in his first State of the Union address when he quoted George Washington and said, “for our friends in the press who place a high premium on accuracy, let me say I did not actually hear George Washington say that.”
There will always be conflict between politicians and the media, but today’s tense Trump-media relationship is far from natural.
Yet to be fair to Trump, the media has treated him incredibly unfairly.
ABC’s Brian Ross was suspended last December for his report on Michael Flynn, who he claimed would testify that President Trump directed him to contact Russian officials during his campaign, which was later proven to be false.
Just a few months ago, Brian Stelter spread conspiracies on his CNN show regarding first lady Melania Trump’s health when she avoided the press after having kidney surgery.
In perhaps the most egregious example of media malfeasance, BuzzFeed published a shady “dossier” that alleged Trump engaged in “golden showers” with Russian prostitutes, even though this was unverified. These are only a few examples, as media bias and irresponsibility has clearly upticked since Trump’s arrival into the political scene.
But even though many Democrats claim Trump is censoring the media, and many Republicans express their desire for him to do so, it isn’t happening, nor should it. Two things can be true at once: the media should be criticized for its clear bias and Republicans have become too hostile toward the media.
The public must hold the press accountable for their mistakes, but divisive rhetoric doesn’t help their case. If Republicans truly want to pressure the mainstream media to limit their bias, they shouldn’t turn toward censorship—instead they must be honest, respectful, and fact check like crazy.
Patrick Hauf is a writer for Young Voices. He is also a commentator at the Media Research Center and an editor for Lone Conservative.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.