In a segment this morning on “Fox & Friends,” Donald Trump claimed “freedom of the press” was in part to blame for bombings this weekend in New York and New Jersey. His statement was a reminder that he either does not understand or does not like the contents of the First Amendment.
Speaking on the conservative morning show, Trump proclaimed:
“They’re all talking about it so wonderfully because, you know, it’s called ‘freedom of the press,’ where you buy magazines and they tell you how to make these same bombs that I saw” Trump said. “They tell you how to make bombs. We should arrest the people that do that because they’re participating in crime. Instead they say ‘oh no you can’t do anything, that’s freedom of expression.’”
This is just the latest time that Trump has expressed a dislike for the protections contained in the First Amendment.
In February, during a rally in Fort Worth, Trump suggested he would “open up our libel laws” to make it easier to sue journalists, telling the crowd:
One of the things I’m going to do if I win, and I hope we do, and we’re certainly leading, is I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. We’re going to open up those libel laws so that when The New York Times writes a hit piece, which is a total disgrace, or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected.
This protection was established in the landmark Supreme Court case New York Times v. Sullivan, which was decided more than 50 years ago. But it clearly hasn’t stopped Trump from wanting to use lawsuits as a weapon against the media: Just this weekend Trump tweeted, “My lawyers want to sue the failing @nytimes so badly for irresponsible intent.”
My lawyers want to sue the failing @nytimes so badly for irresponsible intent. I said no (for now), but they are watching. Really disgusting
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 17, 2016
And it’s not just the freedom of the press. Trump clearly views other sections of the First Amendment with similar distain.
In an appearance on “Morning Joe” in November, Trump suggested he would ignore the First Amendment’s “free exercise” clause, agreeing that as president he would “strongly consider” closing down some mosques. “I would hate to do it, but it’s something that you’re going to have to strongly consider because some of the ideas and some of the hatred—the absolute hatred—is coming from these areas,” he said.
A month earlier he said that closing down mosques was something “you’re going to have to certainly look at.”
Trump also has expressed disdain for protestors, suggesting he doesn’t simply want them removed from his rallies but would like them to be arrested and get a “big mark” on their records. “Once that starts happening, we’re not going to have any more protesters, folks. We’re not going to have any more protesters,” he said.
With these statements in mind, Trump’s First Amendment might look something like this:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Trump hasn’t served in government yet; if he were in the White House, he might decide that he isn’t keen on the amendment’s final clause either.