President Donald Trump’s continued apparent contempt for free speech remains well documented at this point. He goes after interests ranging from protesters exercising their First Amendment rights to the bulk of the nation’s mainstream media, decrying them as fake news and the “enemy of the people.” The PEN American Center has long had enough.
They’ve filed suit against the president over an array of actions he’s undertaken to thwart free speech. The focus of the literary and human rights group’s push rests with some of the more tangible actions he’s undertaken beyond just rhetoric. For instance, Trump was reported to be pushing for the government to block a proposed merger between Time Warner and AT&T poised to benefit, among other interests, CNN. The government proposed a path to accepting the merger that included CNN getting sold off and thereby disconnected from its supporting business network, but earlier this year, a federal judge approved the merger — although the government appealed.
Other issues cited in the new suit include Trump’s incessant harassment of Amazon and its owner Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, another favorite target. The president has claimed that Amazon is milking the American taxpayer dry, running its business via workarounds with the U.S. Postal Service that should supposedly not be in place. The Postal Service, for its part, has contested the claims that it’s losing vast amounts of money shipping Amazon’s packages, but Trump ordered a review of its financial status anyway.
In addition to his jabs at their supposedly dishonest shipping practices, he’s claimed that the company doesn’t pay nearly enough taxes — although they collect state sales taxes in all 45 states that have such a provision in place.
He’s tied his attacks on the company — and threats about breaking them up — to the operations of The Washington Post, attempting at times to describe the publication as a lobbyist on behalf of Bezos and Amazon despite the fact that the two companies operate independently.
These issues and more figure into PEN’s new suit against the president.
Their filing reads, in part:
‘President Trump has First Amendment rights and is free to criticize the press vehemently, but he is not free to use the power and authority of the United States government to punish and stifle it.’
To that end, the group wants the president formally barred from undertaking any punitive action in response to press coverage he doesn’t like. Just because he says that most of the media in the United States constitute the enemy of the people doesn’t mean they actually do.
Still, he persists. For instance, just this week he made sure to counter widespread reporting about his financial ties to Saudi Arabia by asserting he has no business ties in the country. He has had such ties, though, stretching back decades and continuing to the present day. The country patronizes his hotels, which still benefits him.
In other words, he’s the real purveyor of fake news, not the media organizations he so adamantly opposes. He’ll never admit that, though.
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