The presidential campaign of Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has thus far been a success when it comes to elections during the primary and caucus portion of the campaign. While Trump didn’t win the Iowa caucus, he has since rebounded to win by large margins in New Hampshire and South Carolina, and is currently on pace to be in position to virtually clinch the nomination.
Trump’s campaign has also been marked by his frequent disdain of the media, including comments that they are dishonest when it comes to reporting on him. Many such comments have followed reporting on remarks that he’s made that have been found to be either misleading or outright incorrect.
Since first announcing his candidacy in June 2015, Trump has directed criticism at a number of different media figures, such as Megyn Kelly of Fox News, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt and NBC reporter Katy Tur. He has collectively labeled the media as “dishonest scum,” a pejorative term that only invites greater scrutiny.
On February 29, during a campaign rally at Radford University in Virginia, a photographer from Time magazine, Chris Morris, became involved in a heated scuffle with a Secret Service agent. This came after Morris stepped out of the media pen that has been set up for media covering Trump rallies. Morris’ objective was to snap photos of protesters from the group Black Lives Matter that were being escorted from the rally.
The agent in question is shown in multiple videos taken of the incident grabbing Morris by the throat to restrain him. That’s followed by the agent body-slamming him to the ground, with Morris responding with kicks toward him.
Before Morris was then escorted out of the rally, he tried to explain his kicking reaction by placing his hands around the throat of the agent.
Trump’s campaign issued a statement which indicated that because they didn’t have all details related to the incident, questions should be directed at Radford, VA, law enforcement officials.
Media reporting of the incident showed a direct contrast in placing blame. Most outlets focused on Morris being body-slammed, but conservative-leaning websites that have shown support of Trump’s campaign were more inclined to emphasize the fact that Morris attempted to kick and then puts his hands on the throat of the agent.
This incident with the photographer came three days after Trump indicated that, if elected President in November, he would “open up libel laws.” This would allow him to sue media outlets for what he believed were negative and false information. He specifically singled out the New York Times and Washington Post for writing what he described as “hit pieces” on him.
That resulted in criticism of Trump for trying to virtually eliminate the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of the press. The current standard for proving libel is that a media outlet must have knowingly published something false with the intent of causing malicious harm to an individual.
Such a standard makes it much harder for public figures such as Trump to win any such lawsuit. In addition, his proposed ability to “open up” such laws is undercut by the fact that there are no current federal statutes that cover libel, with any such cases handled in state court.
The media has also pointed out that if he were to be elected President, Trump would have little time to pursue such lawsuits against individuals or media outlets. That’s due to not only the nature of the relationship between any Chief Executive and the press, but also the demands of the job itself.
This is how reporters are treated at Trump rallies pic.twitter.com/hMxuEoKVeG
— Gabby Morrongiello (@gabriellahope_) February 29, 2016
— Mashable (@mashable) February 29, 2016