No, Mr. President

by William H. Freivogel

Opinion

No, Mr. President, it isn’t true that journalists “don’t like our country.” Our job is to hold our country and our president to the values of freedom, equality and diversity that make America special.

No, it isn’t true journalists are “liars” and “sick people” who write “fake news” and stir up “division” in the country. The news you call fake is real and the sharp divisions since Charlottesville are largely a product of your making. Think about last week’s unhinged press conference in Trump Tower.

No, journalists are not trying to “take back our history and our culture.” And exactly what is it about the culture of the Confederacy and the Old South that you want to celebrate? The treasonous attempt of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee to destroy the United States? The evil and bloody war to preserve the original sin of slavery? The post-war disenfranchisement, segregation and lynchings of African-Americans in carnival-like settings?

No, Mr. President, it isn’t okay to whip up the crowd to get them shouting at the press corps. Journalists have thick skins but it is beneath the office of president to lead your supporters in chants directed at the people who are the eyes and ears of the rest of the nation.

No, you haven’t accomplished more in seven months than any president in history, although your total number of misleading and false claims is a record, now topping 1,000. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/08/22/president-trumps-list-of-false-and-misleading-claims-tops-1000/?utm_term=.b71800c70e16

In one long, rambling speech to shouting supporters in Phoenix Tuesday night, Trump said all of these things in expanding on what has become a perpetual war against “the enemy of the people.”

CNN’s Sara Murray reported “most of the people at these rallies — even ones booing — treat it as a joke,” but added “there are some who treat Trump’s ‘fake news’ diatribes seriously.

“They believe it when Trump lies about the cameras being turned off. They harass reporters and photographers. Trump knows what he’s saying is false. People close to him know it puts journalists at risk just for doing their jobs. He does it anyway.”

Even though Trump has failed to pass signature legislation on health or tax or infrastructure, the seven months of his failed presidency have been remarkable for scandal and dysfunction.

Who would have guessed that by summer Trump would be attacking Sen. Mitch McConnell or that the Senate majority leader would be wondering out loud whether Trump’s presidency could survive the damage the commander-in-chief already had inflicted?

Who would have thought on Inauguration Day that Flynn, Priebus, Bannon, Spicer and Comey all would be gone?

Who would have thought the leaders of industry would resign from Trump’s White House panels because of the president’s failure of moral leadership after Charlottesville?

Who would have thought Robert Mueller would be special counsel delving deeply into the Russia investigation — an investigation that has upset Trump so much he tried to get the FBI director to drop it, tried to get intelligence chiefs to resist it, fired the FBI director over it, dictated the misleading cover story to conceal it and berated Sessions and McConnell for failing to protect him from it?

Mr. President, the press’s job is not to make the nation’s CEO look good. It’s to hold the president and other public officials to the nation’s laws, constitutional principles and core values. If the president makes mistakes, it’s the press’ job to alert the American people. If the other branches of government fail to check presidential abuses, it’s the press’ job to serve as a constitutional check by bringing the abuses to light.

Yes, the press wants to make American great again. Shining a light both on the president’s — or the nation’s — accomplishments and shortcomings is a journalist’s form of patriotism.

  • Bobbi Linkemer

    You are so welcome. I am a St. Louis writer and editor and have been following your impressive career since your days at the Post-Dispatch. I can’t begin to guess how many young journalists you have inspired and taught over the years. Nobody makes it in this business without a little help from people like you.

  • William H. Freivogel

    Thank you so much. I’d like to live up to the nice comment.

  • Bobbi Linkemer

    Dear Mr. Freivogel,
    Once again, you’ve nailed it. You are a journalist in the manner of Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Christiane Amanpour, Diane Sawyer, Tom Brokaw, David Brinkley, and those of their ilk. Thanks you on behalf of those who remember when journalists were the giants of our time.