It is no secret that former President Donald Trump’s relationship with the elite media has been antagonistic, to say the least. Ever since he began campaigning for president in the 2016 election, the press has treated him as a boogeyman threatening to upend the accepted order of American politics.
Trump gained favor among the conservative base for his willingness to attack the journalists, commentators, and other members of the chattering class for their apparent bias against himself and conservatives in general. The 2024 campaign is no different. But this time, in one of his social media postings against the biased media, he suggested a solution that would undoubtedly be worse than the problem it’s intended to solve.
In a post on Truth Social, Trump railed against MSNBC and accused it of interfering in the upcoming election through its politically skewed reporting and argued that it would be appropriate to use the government to crack down on the news outlet.
MSNBC (MSDNC) uses FREE government approved airwaves, and yet it is nothing but a 24 hour hit job on Donald J. Trump and the Republican Party for purposes of ELECTION INTERFERENCE. Brian Roberts, its Chairman and CEO, is a slimeball who has been able to get away with these constant attacks for years. It is the world’s biggest political contribution to the Radical Left Democrats who, by the way, are destroying our Country. Our so-called “government” should come down hard on them and make them pay for their illegal political activity. Much more to come, watch!
This is not the first time Trump has made such an argument. In September, he wrote a post insisting that the government investigate Comcast, MSNBC, and other establishment media outlets due to their apparent bias.
For starters, the claim that MSNBC uses “FREE government approved airwaves” is inaccurate as it is a cable news network. Yet, Trump’s characterization of MSNBC as “a 24 hour hit job” on Trump and conservatives is spot on. The network has been open about its apparent left-wing bias, so none of this is surprising.
The notion that MSNBC’s bias warrants government interference is the type of talk that should give conservatives and libertarians pause. It is one thing for Trump to rightly highlight the bias of MSNBC and other networks. It is quite another thing for him to suggest that he would use the government to silence them, especially given what folks on the right have endured when it comes to politically biased censorship on social media. It is not exactly difficult to see how this could go to a frightening place, is it?
There is the Constitutional matter, of course. The First Amendment clearly safeguards freedom of speech and the press. The idea that the state should “come down hard” on a news outlet for its political speech appears to be a clear violation of these two rights and would empower the government to tamp down on the expression of dissenting views.
Moreover, if Trump were somehow able to use the government against MSNBC and possibly other left-wing outlets, it would create a dangerous situation for everyone of all political stripes. It wouldn’t be long before a Democrat took office and used the government to go after right-leaning outlets like RedState and others. Indeed, with the little power it has to regulate speech, the Biden administration has been paying private organizations to squash dissenting voices on social media. Giving the government more power over speech would quickly backfire in a way that makes everyone less free.
The bottom line is that using government power to punish or suppress media outlets based on their political leanings would be an egregious violation of what the Bill of Rights was intended to protect. The notion that a presidential candidate would suggest such a move is disconcerting. However, it is true that Trump often makes hyperbolic statements, as he did on the 2016 campaign trail. But even if he is serious, Constitutional concerns would prevent him from following through on this misguided idea.