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Trump criticizes Boston Globe in wake of editorials supporting the free press

A central pillar of President Trump’s politics is a sustained assault on the free press.
A central pillar of President Trump’s politics is a sustained assault on the free press.

President Trump lashed out Thursday at The Boston Globe and renewed his attacks on the media after more than 400 newspapers published editorials defending the role of the free press and condemning his excoriation of journalists as “the enemy of the people.”

The president’s Twitter tirade came after the Globe organized the concerted effort, which included editorials from national publications such as The New York Times as well as news outlets in small communities across the country.

“THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA IS THE OPPOSITION PARTY,” the president wrote in one of a trio of tweets attacking the press Thursday. “It is very bad for our Great Country. . . . BUT WE ARE WINNING!”


In another tweet, Trump ridiculed the Times’s sale of the Globe to John W. Henry, erroneously saying the Globe was sold for $1. Henry purchased the Globe, its affiliated websites and businesses, and the Worcester Telegram and Gazette for
$70 million in 2013.

Trump also accused the Globe of “collusion” for organizing the effort.

The Senate, meanwhile, expressed support for the media, adopting a resolution Thursday that affirmed the press “is not the enemy of the people.”

The largely symbolic measure, which unanimously passed the Republican-controlled chamber on a voice vote, was introduced by three Democrats: Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

Schatz said in a statement the resolution was “an opportunity for us to uphold our oath and make clear that we support liberty and free speech.”

Asked about the president’s response to the Globe’s effort, Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, said, “The freedom of the press is a fundamental part of any democracy, including ours.”

Trump’s attacks on the press have been a constant during his presidency.

At a rally in Pennsylvania earlier this month, he called the media “fake, fake disgusting news.’’ In February 2017, he tweeted that “The FAKE NEWS media . . . is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people!”


The attacks prompted the Globe’s editorial board to organize a concerted response last week. The effort took off quickly, jumping from 70 newspapers that had committed to the initiative last Friday, to 200 on Tuesday, to more than 300 on Wednesday. By Thursday evening, that number had grown to 411.

‘‘Our words will differ. But at least we can agree that such attacks are alarming,’’ the Globe wrote in appealing to other papers to join the effort.

In its editorial, the Globe Opinion section, which is separate from the news department, wrote that the president’s relentless assault on the press has “dangerous consequences.”

“To label the press ‘the enemy of the people’ is as un-American as it is dangerous to the civic compact we have shared for more than two centuries,” the Globe editorial said.

Other newspapers – large and small, in areas rural and urban, liberal and conservative – offered their own defenses of the press.

“We’re not separate from the public. We are the public,” wrote the Topeka Capital-Journal in Topeka, Kan. “We live and work and play in Topeka and surrounding areas. We go to restaurants and send our children to school. We drive the same roads, see the same doctors. We’re not the enemy of the people. We are the people.”


The Philadelphia Inquirer featured its editorial on the front page, saying it considers its work to be part of a “public trust.”

Several newspapers criticized the effort.

The Los Angeles Times wrote that it decided not to join other newspapers in publishing its own editorial because it did not want to “leave the impression that we take our lead from others, or that we engage in groupthink.”

The newspaper also called the effort counterproductive.

“The president himself already treats the media as a cabal — ‘enemies of the people,’ he has called us, suggesting over and over that we’re in cahoots to do damage to the country,” Nicholas Goldberg, editor of the Times’s editorial pages, wrote. “The idea of joining together to protest him seems almost to encourage that kind of conspiracy thinking by the president and his loyalists. Why give them ammunition to scream about ‘collusion’?”

The San Francisco Chronicle also declined to join the editorial push, saying it did not want to “join the crowd, no matter how worthy the cause.” The Chronicle predicted as well that the editorials would prompt a backlash from the president.

“It plays into Trump’s narrative that the media are aligned against him,” wrote John Diaz, the Chronicle’s editorial page editor. “I can just anticipate his Thursday morning tweets accusing the ‘FAKE NEWS MEDIA’ of ‘COLLUSION!’ and ‘BIAS!’ ”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, while chiding Trump for calling the media “the enemy of the people,” said the president also has a point in his attacks.


“What the president really means, perhaps, is that the current press in the U.S., often, is his enemy,” the Post-Gazette’s editorial said. “And he is right about that. Much of the press has been at war with Mr. Trump since his first day in office. In fact, some members of the press have acted as part of Mr. Trump’s political opposition, or the resistance.”

The editorial called the Globe “part of the national media echo chamber.”

Since Friday, when the first news story appeared about the Globe’s effort, the news organization has received some hostile phone calls, a few of which were particularly threatening and led to stepped-up security in and around the building where its offices are located in downtown Boston.

In a strongly pro-Trump area of Nebraska, Emily Hemphill, managing editor of the Seward Newspaper Group, which publishes the Seward County Independent, the Milford Times, the Friend Sentinel, and the Wilber Republican, said the editorial those newspapers published in support of a free press had sparked a vigorous debate among readers.

“We were a little unprepared that it took off that quickly,” she said Thursday. “We, as a small-town local paper, don’t publish a lot of political articles, and it was kind of a shock for our readers to see Trump’s name in a headline in our local newspaper.”

The editorial, headlined “Trump’s attacks on media unfair,” said: “We hold people in power accountable for their actions. Some think we’re rude to question and challenge. We know it’s our obligation.”


Hemphill said opinion was evenly divided, with many “liking” the editorial on Facebook and others blasting it in the comments section.

“Whether people had something positive to say, we’re just glad it caught people’s attention and people are talking about the media and its role in this country,” Hemphill said. “No matter which side you’re on, this is a major issue in our country.”

In Longview, Texas, another Trump community roughly 40 miles from the Louisiana border, the Longview News-Journal published its own editorial saying, “President Donald Trump has declared the free press your enemy. We think you know better. The people who work at the News-Journal are your neighbors, and most hail from Gregg County or somewhere nearby. You know us well. We are your friends, cousins, brothers, fathers, sisters, sons and daughters.”

Richard Brack, editor of the News-Journal, said that while some readers reacted negatively to the piece online, he ran into one Trump supporter who said he liked it.

“It’s a mix, but overall the idea that we’re having a discussion is positive, and I think in that regard the editorial approach worked,” Brack said.

Jay Rosen, a media critic and associate professor of journalism at New York University, said the nationwide editorial campaign sought to address a tricky problem confronting the media: how to band together to defend journalism’s role as a pillar of democracy without turning the press into the “opposition party.” He called the situation a “civic emergency.”

“It’s true that the press can’t become the opposition to Trump, but it has to find a way of opposing a political style that erodes democratic institutions,” Rosen said. “So this is an attempt to find something that can do that, and that’s why it’s significant. It’s not significant because it’s going to change him, or end this campaign to discredit the press. It’s not.”

Jaclyn Reiss of the Globe staff contributed to this report.