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Investigate the Media?



Vance head shot
Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio)

In a recent interview, Republican Senator (and Trump sycophant) J D Vance suggested that the media be investigated for reporting news unfavorable to Donald Trump. He’s echoing the sentiments of several other right-wing lawmakers and, of course, Trump himself, who continue to push the false claims of election interference, a rigged system, a Deep State and several other unsubstantiated accusations.


They conveniently ignore the fact that those in the media are being held accountable. Fox lost a multimillion-dollar lawsuit for falsely accusing the voting machine company, Dominion, of somehow altering the election results. Along with ultra-conservative outlet Newsmax, they are also being sued for pushing similar bogus claims against Smartmatic. 


So, perhaps Republicans should be careful what they wish for.


Except Republicans have no problem pushing false or unsupported accusations when it comes to Democrats. In fact, Fox was even punished by its viewers for accurately reporting that Joe Biden was the likely winner in the swing state of Arizona during the 2020 presidential election. Election-denying Trump supporters fled Fox for the more MAGA-friendly outlets, Newsmax and One America News, who refused to admit that Biden had won. 


Instead, they call those reporting the facts “Fake News” and “an enemy of the people”. They use the label “mainstream media” as a pejorative term while offering their own alternative facts. And now those on the right are demanding these legitimate news sources be investigated, and even criminally punished, if they continue to report on stories that, as Liz Cheney claims in her book was uttered by a Republican congressman, reflect negatively on “Orange Jesus”. 


This is something typically done in totalitarian regimes. Russia has regularly imprisoned journalists for veering from the state-approved narrative. This happened most recently when reporters stated the facts about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and it’s a policy some Republican lawmakers want applied to American correspondents.  


Investigate the media?

Freedom of the Press is a cherished right in a functioning democracy. It is so important that the framers of the Constitution included it in the First Amendment, along with Freedom of Speech. Speaking truth to power is essential to holding those who hold public office. It’s a right that distinguishes a democracy from an autocracy, yet some Republicans in Congress are suggesting limits be placed on this right.


This is not the only time Congress has attempted to curtail the Freedom of the Press. That dishonor belongs to a fledgling congressional set of laws called The Alien and Sedition Act. This impingement on the right of the press to criticize the president also included restrictions on immigrants and even made it harder for legal immigrants to vote.


Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?


But wait!  There’s more!


The Alien and Sedition Act, enacted in 1798, made it illegal to criticize then-President John Adams, but permitted attacks on his political opponent, Thomas Jefferson. Once Jefferson defeated Adams, he allowed the act to expire and those convicted under this unfair law were given pardons. However, that technically remained the law of the land until it was officially repealed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1920.  So, it remained a potential political threat for another one hundred twenty years. 


So, while there is precedent for the actions Republicans are attempting, it is just not a good one.


Yet, some Republicans are suggesting similar punishment for media that is critical of Donald Trump, AKA factual reporting of his own words, while permitting right-wing media to keep on pushing lies about a rigged election, voter fraud, January 6th, election interference and whatever imaginary dirt they can use to try to smear President Biden.

 

Investigate the media? It truly is a world turned upside down. 



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