February 26, 2016

Donald Trump continued his crusade against the press Friday afternoon, saying he wants to “open up” libel laws to enable easier retribution against journalists.

The remarks came during a campaign rally in Fort Worth, Texas, where Trump abused both The Washington Post and The New York Times and darkly suggested The Post would “have problems” under a Trump administration, according to POLITICO.

One of the things I’m going to do if I win, and I hope we do and we’re certainly leading. 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 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.

The suggestion was the latest salvo against journalists from a Trump campaign that has hurled invective at reporters on social media and elsewhere on more than 40 occasions. Trump’s dissatisfaction with the media has become a dominant theme of his campaign, and national newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post have been among his favorite targets.

Trump has not been alone among presidential aspirants in singling out the media for repeated criticism, although none have suggested altering laws to speed litigation. The media, like President Obama, Wall Street and the culture of Washington, D.C. in general, have become symbols of a establishment that several candidates have tried to define themselves in opposition to.

These attacks have prompted vigorous editorial responses from news organizations across the United States. The Huffington Post has abandoned conventional notions of journalistic neutrality by including an editor’s note at the end of its stories that brands Trump a “serial liar,” “rampant xenophobe” and a racist.

Current law requires public figures like Donald Trump to prove “actual malice” to prevail in libel cases. This precedent, which was set in the landmark Supreme Court case New York Times v. Sullivan, establishes that plaintiffs must prove news organizations deliberately published inaccurate information.

The New York Times and The Washington Post had no immediate comment.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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