Email #316: “frankly disgusting”?

Once again, the President is attacking the news media for attacking him. He said last week:

“Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a ‘tenfold’ increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean. NBC = CNN!”

“I mean, I’ve seen tremendously dishonest press. It’s not even a question of distortion. . . . And then they have their sources that don’t exist.”

“It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write. And people should look into it.”

“With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!”

“Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!”

This time the President was upset over revelations that Secretary Tillerson called him a “fucking moron”—a fact already reported and awkwardly not denied by Tillerson—because the President had said he wanted to return the U.S. nuclear arsenal to its previous height during the Cold War. Tillerson and others at the meeting then apparently explained to him why this was both a bad idea and impossible.

I was not in the meeting, so I have no way of knowing whether the NBC report is accurate. However, you have expressed past concerns that news agencies are receiving leaked information from White House sources who are thereby violating federal laws. You were so concerned about leakers that you wrote to the Justice Department about them last spring.

But the President believes that such leakers don’t exist. He tweeted last May:

“It is my opinion that many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media.”

“Whenever you see the words ‘sources say’ in the fake news media, and they don’t mention names…it is very possible that those sources don’t exist but are made up by fake news writers. #FakeNews is the enemy!”

The President’s attitude has evolved in the past six months. He no longer says it is “very possible” or that it’s “my opinion.” He says without qualification that the leaks “don’t exist” and that news reports are “pure fiction.”

Does this allay your previous concerns about leakers? Will you be retracting your previous statements and not following-up with the Justice Department further?

Do you also agree with the President that news agencies should have their licenses revoked? Since you chair the House Judiciary Committee and have overseen the Federal Communications Commission in the past, did the President mean you when he said “people should look into it”? Do you also find it “frankly disgusting” that news agencies can report whatever they like?

You said the day after your most recent reelection that you would
“work hard to continue … protecting our constitutional freedoms.” Do you think challenging broadcasting licenses would be an effective way to bypass the first Amendment: “Congress shall make no law….abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”?

 

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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