“Trump blamed for targeting of press.” So declares the Washington Post (paper edition) in the sub-headline to a story citing a small number of cases in which reporters have been “roughed up.” Though the headline doesn’t say who is doing the blaming, it’s from the story that Post reporter Paul Fahri blames Trump.
When a politician roughs up a reporter, there is really only one person to blame — the politician. If anyone else is to be blamed, it should be the reporter in cases where the reporter is unduly intrusive. Ben Jacobs was too intrusive when he got in Greg Gianforte’s face and wouldn’t take no for an answer after Gianforte told him he’d discuss later on the issue Jacobs insisted he address now. Still, I blame only Gianforte.
Blaming Trump for the assault is baseless. He hasn’t advocated attacking the press. He has merely exercised his right to criticize the press in harsh terms.
Why should harsh criticism be a one-way street? When liberal, pro-Democrat organs like the Post constantly attack Trump, they have no right to complain when Trump criticizes them, as long as he doesn’t abridge their rights or advocate attacks on their reporters.
Trump is no more to blame for politicians manhandling reporters than the Post is to blame for anti-Trump demonstrators who engage in violence and/or vandalism. The Post’s non-stop hammering of the president may incite some protesters to act hyper-aggressively, but the Post isn’t asking them to. Nor is Trump asking politicians to assault reporters.
Fahri says that “press advocates” blame Trump for “the increased climate of anger, disrespect, and hostility aimed at the media from the public and elected officials.” But Trump can just as plausibly blame the press for the increased climate of anger, disrespect, and hostility aimed at him.
The key point is that there’s nothing wrong with being angry, disrespectful, or hostile towards the press or the president (though I would argue that, unlike the press, any president deserves a little bit of respect by virtue of his office and his election to the presidency or vice presidency by the American people). Organs like the Post can’t expect to be exempt from anger, disrespect, and hostility, especially when they unabashedly take the side of one faction.
There’s another problem with blaming Trump for Gianforte’s assault — it’s extremely doubtful that Trump’s rhetoric contributed in any way to the attack. No one likes to be hounded by snotty reporters. When Jacobs hounded Gianforte, who likely was stressed out by a tough campaign, the candidate simply lost control. There was no premeditation and no chance to consider anything Trump said about reporters.
The audio shows that, if anything, Gianforte was reacting to the way reporters have treated him, not to anything Trump has said about reporters. Apparently, he had his own reasons to be angry with Jacobs and his paper, the Guardian — reasons having nothing to do with Trump.
Again, though, even if a causal link could be established between criticism of the press and Gianforte’s assault, Trump would not be to blame because he does nothing wrong when he slams the press. Indeed, I hope that, within limits, he keeps slamming.