EDITORIAL: Media will not be intimidated into silence

The free press, fundamental to our democracy, is under attack for telling the truth.

by The Editorial Board

President Donald J. Trump has shown little affection for the constitution he swore to preserve, protect and defend one week ago. His constant scapegoating of ethnic and religious minorities is an affront to some of the most fundamental liberties of the nation.

And now, our most vital freedom — freedom of speech — is in his crosshairs.

Steve Bannon, former far-right propagandist and now Trump’s chief strategist, said Thursday the press needs to “keep its mouth shut,” and “listen for a while.”

We’ve been listening.

We were listening when Trump’s mouthpiece, Press Secretary Sean Spicer, used the first press briefing of his administration to insist — falsely — that the inauguration was the “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.”

We were listening the next day when Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s counselor — a person who had no problem calling Trump out on his pathological lying before she was hired by his campaign — described the claim as an “alternative” fact.

We were listening as Trump claimed — repeatedly, and falsely — that “millions” of fraudulent votes were cast for Hillary Clinton.

We’ve been listening. It’s what the press does.

Listen. Report. Repeat.

Perhaps that’s why the reporting on a president with such a tenuous relationship with fact is so adversarial. Journalists — real journalists, not the propagandists at fake news factories like Breitbart — deal in facts. They are our livelihood. We scrape and sacrifice in service to them.

And when Bannon’s boss, the now-leader of the free world, pathologically repeats statements and statistics he likely knows to be false, we’re going to call him out on them — every time, and without hesitation.

That’s the role of the press. Being from a “news” organization that makes a mockery of the profession, Mr. Bannon can be forgiven for not understanding that role and devaluing the public service performed by the press.

We’re the biggest punching bag in politics, but we can take it. Just don’t expect us not to swing back.

The press has been called the “fourth estate” of our democracy, and for good reason. We are the eyes and ears of the people. Facts are not dictated from on high, like in Russia, but vetted and confirmed with evidence. And with the three branches of government now firmly under the thumb of an erratic, lying, blustering bully, the role of the press is more vital than ever.

We will not back down. We will not be silenced. And we will not be bullied into compliance by a wannabe despot.

The more this administration leans on those who disagree with them to be silent, the more we’re going to push back.

We will be there every step of the way, debunking every lie and correcting each “alternative” fact.

They’d better get used to it.