President Trump today signed an executive order intended to protect the First Amendment rights of college students, an ironic twist given his constant attacks on the news media and threats against television programming that he doesn't like.
But then, if you look at the reason behind Trump's action, it becomes easy to understand.
Trump's executive order would withhold federal funds from universities found to restrict free speech on campus. While the guidelines would supposedly cover all types of speech, what prompted his action were stories of conservative university speakers being silenced.
Trump said he was taking “historic action to defend American students and American values that have been under siege.”
The order was welcomed by people who claim universities are perpetuating liberal indoctrination of students -- and condemned by those who argue that freedom of inquiry is fundamental to higher education, one the government should not be defining.
"“It is encouraging that the president is supporting free speech on public universities, but it’s also highly ironic that he simultaneously criticizes the media who do their work under the blanket protection of that very same amendment,” said Clay Calvert, a journalism professor at the University of Florida and director of its First Amendment Project, according to The Washington Post.
"Under the guise of speech codes, safe spaces and trigger warnings . . . universities have shut down the voices of great Americans like those who are here today,” Trump said at his signing ceremony.
Reported The Post:
But freedom of speech is not the only component of the First Amendment. The law also includes four other freedoms, including freedom of the press.
Throughout his candidacy and presidency, Trump has denigrated the press, suggesting the government open up libel laws to make it easier to sue media and rescinding temporarily press credentials of a reporter he doesn’t like. Along with targeting the press, Trump has also threatened to have the federal government “look into” “Saturday Night Live” for its political satire.
Democrats have also questioned whether Trump has sought to use his office to punish companies associated with CNN and The Washington Post. Trump had promoted blocking AT&T from purchasing Time Warner, the parent company of CNN, and he wanted the U.S. Postal Service to increase shipping costs for Amazon, whose chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, also owns The Post.
“It would be laughable,” Katy Glenn Bass, research director of the Knight First Amendment Institute, said of Trump’s focus on the First Amendment, “but it’s too serious for it to be laughable.”
President Trump constantly denigrates the "mainstream" media, calling it "The Enemy of the People," a charge that has incited violence against reporters since he began that campaign. "You face down, intimidation, pressure, and abuse," he told the conservative students invited to the ceremony.
Intimidation, pressure and abuse?
That's exactly what working reporters face every day covering Trump. His executive order is a joke. But it's not funny.