President Trump Can Sway Some Voters, But Courts May Be Another Matter: Prof. Jeff McCall '76
January 20, 2018
The recent attempt by President Trump to block the distribution of the controversial book by Michael Wolff, Fire and Fury, "was a disaster," Jeffrey M. McCall, professor of communication at DePauw University, writes for The Hill. "The 'cease and desist' letter from Trump’s private attorney, Charles Harder, was laughable. There was no way publisher Henry Holt was going to hold back release of the controversial book, let alone apologize for its contents ... Indeed, Trump’s cease and desist tactic was a clear attempt at prior restraint, the very thing constitutional framers were prohibiting when they created a free press."
In an op-ed, Dr. McCall continues, "Trump has now doubled down on his legal strategy by again raising concerns about libel laws ... Trump believes 'a person' who has been falsely defamed should have 'meaningful recourse in our courts.' Actually, a private 'person' already has such avenues. A public figure, however, as the Supreme Court has determined, also has such recourse, but must prove the news outlet acted with malice in the reporting process. That’s because public figures must be held more accountable for their actions and typically have sufficient access to public dialogue to state their own case in front of the citizenry."
The professor notes, "Trump has taken full opportunity during his campaign and first year in the White House to verbally trash the media in his public appearances and through social media. That’s not necessarily a good thing in the broader scheme of public dialogue and national stability, but he has every First Amendment right to criticize the media as he likes. That’s the rough and tumble world of the public arena."
According to McCall, "Trump believes these attacks on the media help him win on the rhetorical battlefield. That might or might not be true, but the umpiring on that playing field is done by citizens, some of whom clearly agree with Trump. The umpiring done in courtrooms, however, is done by judges who follow First Amendment precedents established over the years by the Supreme Court. Trump can’t win in that arena and would be well-advised to stay out of it, for his own good and that of the First Amendment."
Read the complete column -- headlined "Trump can beat the media in public opinion, but courts are another matter" -- at the newspaper's website.
A 1976 DePauw graduate, Jeff McCall is a former journalist and author of Viewer Discretion Advised: Taking Control of Mass Media Influences. He joined the DePauw faculty in 1985 and serves as faculty adviser to student radio station WGRE, where he worked as an undergraduate.
The professor is regularly cited in major media reports. His most recent appearances include another newspaper op-ed on the state of the movie industry. Earlier this month, he talked with Southern California's KPCC-FM about the future of Breitbart News. A clip is embedded below.
Source: The HillBack