The media's Obama amnesia

  • 13 January 2017
  • NormanL
How Hillary kept the press in line

The press is in a snit (still) over Donald Trump's press conference. Trump took exception to, and had a verbal altercation with, CNN reporter Jim Acosta. Trump called CNN "fake news." Acosta took offense, and loudly demanded an opportunity to reply. Trump shut him down.

Like clockwork, the press went bonkers, saying the exchange amounted to the end of a free press, and possibly the First Amendment.

Their collective memory is failing. If any president has held press freedom in contempt, it's the soon-to-be former incumbent, Barack Obama:

It's important to note that when the Obama administration attempted to freeze Fox News out of a round of interviews with an administration official, a number of reporters from Fox's competitors—including then-ABC correspondent (now with CNN) Jake Tapper—came to the defense of what Tapper called "one of our sister organizations" and refused to go along with the administration's decision to exclude Fox from access.

However, of far greater concern than whether or not a president-elect calls on a specific reporter in a press conference is whether or not as president he would authorize spying on reporters as part of a crackdown on leaks, which Obama did and which the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called an "unacceptable abuse of power."

New York Times reporter James Risen—who the Obama administration's Justice Department threatened with prison timeif he did not reveal a source—recently wrote:

Under Obama, the Justice Department and the F.B.I. have spied on reporters by monitoring their phone records, labeled one journalist an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal case for simply doing reporting and issued subpoenas to other reporters to try to force them to reveal their sources and testify in criminal cases.

Risen has also said about Obama's first attorney general, "Eric Holder has sent a message to dictators around the world that it is okay to crack down on the press and jail journalists," adding, "This is Eric Holder's true legacy on press freedom: 'There is no First Amendment 'reporter's privilege.'"

No less an authority on the First Amendment and press freedom than James C. Goodale—who represented the Times in the Pentagon Papers case—wrote in 2013 that the Obama administration effectively dismissed the First Amendmentwhen it came to reporters covering national security issues. Goodale wrote, "President Obama will surely pass President Richard Nixon as the worst president ever on issues of national security and press freedom."

It's not a surprise, though it remains disturbing, that so many in the media have so quickly forgotten just how roughly they were treated at Mr. Obama's hands. Then again, he was a favorite of many of the organizations that gather and report the news, so his offenses go down the memory hole.