U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, introduced a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives in March that states the press “has been targeted by unwarranted attacks claiming that they are publishing false news” and that it’s time for Congress to reaffirm the freedom of the press.“President Trump has had a strenuous relationship with the press,” said Lawrence. “In his first two months, that relationship has deteriorated even more, which led me to introduce this resolution upholding the freedoms granted to the press through the First Amendment—a vital pillar of our American democracy which was under attack. If some stories are unflattering to the president, that does not mean the story is ‘fake news.’”
Robert Kolt, MSU College of Communication Arts and Sciences professor of practice, said the resolution is a step forward and a show of concern but whether it will change anything is questionable.
“The president is acting like a bully and presidents have done that in the past,” said Kolt. “Donald Trump is not unique. Using the media, beating up the media, criticizing the media are all tactics that presidents have used in the past.”
Trump has tweeted that outlets such as ABC, CBS, The New York Times, CNN and NBC are fake news. “I’m against the people that make up stories and make up sources,” said Trump. “They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name.”
The press informs people about current events in the country, whether it be politics, the economy, sports, etc. Lawrence said as long as outlets are reporting the facts, and she said she believes most do, they are fulfilling their mission.
“The press is already free in our country under our Constitution,” said Lawrence. “However the president and his administration should not be punishing outlets they believe are unfavorable. I introduced this resolution as a reminder that the press must remain free, even if certain individuals in the administration refuse to recognize some outlets’ legitimacy.”
Kolt said the media should not worry about maintaining a healthy relationship. They should do their job.
“They should print the truth,” said Kolt. “They should print the whole story. If the government wants to change the relationship, I think it’s a bad strategy and it’ll backfire on them.”
Given the Constitutional nature of Lawrence’s resolution, it was referred to the Judiciary Committee, where it awaits action by the chairman.