Incompetence Saturday Continues: Those News Stories About President Trump Claiming That Protesters Have No Right To Protest or Violated His Rights Are Fake News

Over 29,000 views, every one making the viewer more ignorant…

This is also cross-filed under “Bias makes you stupid,” a file (and tag) now stuffed to overflowing by the anti-Trump-obsessed, members of “the resistance,” and journalists—but I repeat myself—who are meticulously destroying their credibility and trustworthiness with every manufactured outrage. (For an amusing related video, look here.)

Over at Popehat, First Amendment specialist lawyer/blogger Ken White dutifully defends the President from incompetent and biased reporting, not for the first time, regarding Nwanguma v. Trump, the case pending in federal court in Kentucky where plaintiffs, protesters at a March 1, 2016 Trump rally in Louisville, claim that Trump incited his fans to assault them. Writes Ken, in a statement that echos what has been written on Ethics Alarms many, many times:

“It is not necessary to make things up to paint him as censorious and uninformed about free speech values. Yet here we are again.”

He goes on…

Previously I lawsplained that no, a federal judge didn’t rule that Trump had incited violence, and no, it’s very misleading to say that one of the allegedly violent rally-goers sued Trump for inciting him to violence.

Now, says Ken ruefully, we are seeing stories like this one in Politico, headlined,

Trump lawyer: ‘No right’ to protest at rallies

(The similar headline over my post comes from Charles Johnson, the blogger who exposed Dan Rather’s attempt to use a forged letter in a CBS News report, essentially ending Rather’s career as a legitimate journalist)

This, Ken explains, is untrue. This, Jack explains, is also fake news. Many readers here hate it when I say this, because they want to maintain the fantasy that only deliberate false news stories planted by Lithuanian teens or the equivalent are fairly called fake news, and when a biased, anti-Trump journalist writes a story that misleads the public and misstates facts to undermine the President of the United States and the journalist’s equally biased editor doesn’t hold him to professional standards and his also biased news organization happily publishes as fact what is not fact, because they are all wishing and hoping to do as much political, partisan harm to the president as possible, it’s just a “mistake,” not true “fake news.” (And how’s THAT for an oxymoron?) Well, that’s nonsense, a distinction without a difference, and a rationalization to excuse unethical journalism.

Back to Ken, as he explains Trump’s lawyers’ motions that legally ignorant reporters incompetently misinterpreted to denigrate Trump:

Trump’s First Amendment argument depends, in part, on his (correct) assertion that freedom of association lets a politician control who is allowed to attend a private political rally:

At the threshold, the forum for this speech was a political campaign rally. Like any other private assembly to achieve ideological goals, political campaigns have a core First Amendment right to associate for the purpose of expressing a particular message, which necessarily includes the right to “exclu[de] . . . views [that] [a]re at odds with positions [the campaign] espouse[s].” Hurley v. Irish-Am. Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Grp. of Boston, 515 U.S. 557, 580 (1995). Accordingly, when a campaign has “decided to exclude a message it d[oes] not like” from a campaign rally, “that is enough to invoke [the campaign’s] right as a private speaker to shape its expression” by excluding or expelling demonstrators who express contrary viewpoints. Id. at 574. Of course, protestors have their own First Amendment right to express dissenting views, but they have no right to do so as part of the campaign rally of the political candidates they oppose. Indeed, forcing the “private organizers” of a political rally to accept everyone “who wish[es] to join in with some expressive demonstration of their own” would “violate[] the fundamental rule of protection under the First Amendment, that a speaker has the autonomy to choose the content of his own message.” Id. at 573.

I added the highlight to that quote because it undercuts the spin being given to it. Trump’s lawyers are saying “Trump can decide who is allowed to attend his private rally, and protesters have a right to protest him but not at his private rally.”

That is the context for the following paragraph:

Here, the Plaintiffs obviously interfered with the Trump campaign’s First Amendment right to “choose the contents of [its] own message,” id., when they attended a Trump campaign rally and began vigorously expressing their disdain for Mr. Trump, including by “h[o]ld[ing] up a sign depicting [Mr.] Trump’s face on the body of a pig,” Compl. ¶ 44. Once that disruption occurred, Mr. Trump and the campaign had every right to expel the protestors from the event. Accordingly, Mr. Trump was not “inciting a riot” but was rather exercising a core First Amendment freedom when he said, “[G]et ’em out of here” and “Don’t hurt ’em.” Id. ¶¶ 32, 34. By holding to the contrary, this Court’s decision effectively transforms Mr. Trump’s protected political speech into an unlawful tortious act. At the very least, reasonable minds can differ as to whether that holding is correct as a matter of First Amendment law.

Note that Trump’s lawyers said that protesters were interfering with his exercise of First Amendment rights, not violating his First Amendment rights.

So Trump’s completely unremarkable arguments are these:

* Trump has a First Amendment right to speak;
* Trump has a First Amendment right to choose who is allowed at his private rallies;
* Protesters have a First Amendment right to speak, but not to speak at Trump’s private rallies;
* It would violate Trump’s First Amendment rights to force him to accept protesters at private rallies.

All of that is clearly correct. But it’s being reported sloppily, misleadingly, and/or incompetently as “Trump says protesters violate his First Amendment rights” and “Trump says protesters have no right to protest” by people who either don’t care about accuracy or are incapable of achieving it on this subject. The motion explicitly says the opposite of that.

Yes, when news stories say the opposite of what is true because they WANT the opposite to be true and want their readers to think it’s true, that is fake news.

Here is how a competent, unbiased reporter would handle the story. 1) He or she would find a legal expert to explain such nuances as the fact that interfering with one’s exercise of a constitutional right is not the same as violating that right; 2) He or she would not begin writing the story with the presumption that the President is trying to restrict individual rights; and 3) the reporter would make a good faith, objective effort to help readers understand the issues and the rights involved, rather than encourage a headline that is factually untrue.


That would mean being fair to President Trump, and engaging in competent, ethical journalism.

8 thoughts on “Incompetence Saturday Continues: Those News Stories About President Trump Claiming That Protesters Have No Right To Protest or Violated His Rights Are Fake News

  1. Jack,

    “Many readers here hate it when I say this, because they want to maintain the fantasy that only deliberate false news stories planted by Lithuanian teens …”

    No, they hate it because the term is meaningless at this point. The whole debate over what that term means or should mean is code-switching gone wrong. “Fake news” has been so overused by everyone on every side that it is simply a term of snark at this point.

    • No, it’s a very simple and useful term meaning information printed in the news media due to bias, incompetence, or malevolence, that misinforms the public, often in the service of media partisan goals that it should not have.

      The fact the the news media’s plot to use its narrow definition of fake news to make excuses for Hillary Clinton’s loss backfired and focused on its own misleading news reporting is condign justice.

  2. You’ve touched on a big, underlying problem with journalism. Journalists think they are generalists who can make themselves experts on anything with just a little research. They are most likely liberal arts graduates but think they are better and more expert than lawyers in legal matters, business people in business matters, military people in matters of defense, and so on and so forth. It’s a real problem.

  3. Well you know that Trump is Hitler’s son so it kind of makes sense that he would try and surpress The Resistance from protesting anywhere and anyplace.

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