Donald Trump revokes Washington Post press access

Is this a sign of how a President Trump would handle media criticism?

Brian Snyder/Reuters
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a campaign speech about national security in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S. June 13, 2016.

Donald Trump says his presidential campaign is revoking The Washington Post’s press credentials, and the Post isn’t the first major news outlet to be barred from Trump’s rallies and events. Trump previously banned Politico, BuzzFeed News, The Huffington Post, and others from his campaign events, according to The New York Times.

Trump called The Washington Post “phony and dishonest” in a Facebook post where he explained that he decided to pull the press credentials due to the paper’s “incredibly inaccurate coverage and reporting” of his campaign.

Trump took issue with a headline the Post wrote Monday that read, “Donald Trump suggests President Obama was involved with Orlando shooting." The headline was changed Monday afternoon to read, “"Donald Trump seems to connect President Obama to Orlando shooting."

The Post story covered Trump’s statements during a Fox News interview on Monday. When asked to explain why he called for Obama to resign after the shooting, he answered, in part, "He doesn't get it or he gets it better than anybody understands — it's one or the other, and either one is unacceptable."

Washington Post spokeswoman Kristine Coratti Kelly told the Associated Press in an email that the Post changed the headline shortly after posting the story "to more properly reflect what Trump said."

"We did so on our own; the Trump campaign never contacted us about it,” Kelly said.

Washington Post editor Martin Baron said in a statement Tuesday that the decision to revoke the paper’s press credentials "is nothing less than a repudiation of the role of a free and independent press." Baron defended the Post’s coverage of Trump’s campaign so far and vowed to continue with honest, honorable and accurate reporting.

Trump has said that if he were to become president, news organizations that have criticized him “will have problems.” He threatened to sue The Washington Post in January over an article about the bankruptcy of his Atlantic City casino. This would be a very difficult suit to win, thanks to the First Amendment's historically strong protection of journalists, but Trump has said as president he hopes to weaken the libel law that protects journalists covering public figures.

Under American libel law, which the Supreme Court has repeatedly endorsed under the First Amendment, it is difficult for public figures to sue reporters who criticize them because they must demonstrate that factually inaccurate statements were made with actual malice or reckless disregard for the truth.

Legal experts doubt Trump as president could change libel law through executive order; the change would likely require a constitutional amendment.

Nonetheless, denying reporters access to his campaign events is within Trump’s current power.

Chris Cillizza wrote for The Washington Post on Tuesday that politicians and journalists inevitably have a tense relationship, “The job of journalists – at The Post and everywhere else – is to give voters the fullest and most accurate picture of the two people who want to represent all of us as president. That is a task that is, inherently, at conflict – at least at times – with the story the candidates want to tell about themselves. That tension is natural and often leads to uncomfortable relationships between the candidates and the media who cover them.”

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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