News

September 10, 2018

US - #WeeklyAddress: September 3 - September 9: Trump accuses New York Times of "treason" for publishing anonymous op-ed

ANGELA WEISS / AFP
Below are the most notable incidents regarding threats to press freedom in the US during the week of September 3 - September 9:

President Trump accuses NYT of “treason” and cites “national security” concern in response to anonymous op-ed by senior White House official President Donald Trump, in response to the anonymous New York Times op-ed that describes a movement of “resistance” within the administration, issued a one-word tweet invoking the question of “treason” before elaborating on his criticisms of the article in another tweet on September 5. The article, written by an unnamed White House senior official, describes officials’ efforts to “thwart parts of [Trump’s] agenda” and accuses the president of behaving “in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic."

The next day, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders also issued an official statement, denouncing The New York Times for publishing the “pathetic, reckless, and selfish op-ed” that she described as “just another example of the liberal media’s concerted effort to discredit the president.” On September 7, Trump reiterated his accusation of treason and called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to initiate a “national security” investigation to uncover the author’s identity. Although Trump has made numerous remarks about the credibility of news sources, his latest threat to the anonymous author raises alarms for those concerned about state censorship.

 

Press Secretary Sanders encourages supporters to call the NYT and ask for identity of anonymous op-ed author

Early on September 6, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders criticized “the media’s wild obsession” with the unnamed “gutless loser” who wrote the anonymous New York Times op-ed and suggested people contact the newspaper for answers. 

In her tweet, Sanders included the newspaper’s phone number. As of late, journalists have received an increasing number of threatening phone calls, especially those who work for the Times. Sanders concluded her remarks by describing the Times as “the only ones complicit in this deceitful act” and reiterating the administration’s support of the president.

 

President Trump criticizes NBC and questions legitimacy of its license

President Trump criticized NBC on Tuesday for how it handled reporter Ronan Farrow’s story on allegations against Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault and suggested further scrutiny of the outlet’s media license. 

Democratic Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel responded to Trump’s tweet, reminding the president that “this is not how it works.” Below her comments, Rosenworcel provided a link to the FCC’s rules on news licensing. Trump issued a similar threat against NBC and the legitimacy of its license in October 2017 on Twitter.

 

Alex Jones berates CNN journalist before being banned from Twitter

“Infowars” host Alex Jones has been permanently banned from Twitter for heckling and insulting CNN journalist Oliver Darcy in between congressional hearings. As reporters waited to enter the House committee room where Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey would be testifying on September 5, Jones approached Darcy and proceeded to comment on the reporter’s physical appearance. Midway through his tirade, he even described Darcy as “a possum that crawled out of the rear end of a dead cow” and “the equivalent of like the Hitler Youth.” Jones posted the video to his website, “Infowars,” but received immediate backlash. In an official statement, Twitter said, “We took this action based on new reports of tweets and videos posted yesterday that violate our abusive behavior policy, in addition to the account’s previous violations.” Despite his claims of wrongful and biased censorship, Jones is facing multiple defamation lawsuits in relation to his claims that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax and that victims were actually child actors. Jones’ hostile conduct comes at a time when verbal aggression against American journalists has become more commonplace.


 

Texas driver repeatedly crashes truck into Dallas TV station’s building

A Texas driver, in an alleged show of frustration over his friend’s death in 2012, drove his truck into the building of a Fox News-affiliated Dallas TV station on September 5. According to police, the driver, Michael Fry, then left a stack of papers outside the station and handwritten notes reading, “They tryed to kill me. And they missed. And hit him. They have been trying to killing me for years now.” Fry’s notes were in reference to the shooting he had been involved in six years prior that left his friend, Roberto Hernandez, dead. Fry also yelled “High treason!” in front of the building’s shattered windows. Most of the station’s staff were evacuated from the building as it was unclear whether he intended to target reporters.

 

Fry has since been arrested and charged with second-degree criminal mischief, though his motives remain unclear. According to Dallas CBS reporter MaryAnn Martinez, Fry was not targeting Fox News but ABC affiliate WFAA, which he has threatened in the past. As of late, the safety of American journalists has been repeatedly under threat, as seen by the most recent arrest of Robert Chain, the man responsible for sending numerous death threats to Boston Globe journalists.

The United States ranks 45th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index after falling 2 places in the last year.

 

For the latest updates, follow RSF on twitter @RSF_en.