GUEST COLUMN

Cover, uncover

I am preparing myself for four years (perhaps even eight) of the Trump administration. Yes, I have heard some very smart people such as James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, say that President Donald Trump is simply not presidential, or that they are worried that Trump has control of the nuclear codes. But, Trump won the election in November, and democracies are ruled by those who win elections.

Still, there is a growing number of commentators and politicians who believe that Trump could be impeached and removed from office. The special counsel, Robert Mueller, is investigating whether the Russian government worked with any Trump campaign officials to defeat Hillary Clinton. But, as long as there is no indisputable evidence proving that the results of the 2016 election were manipulated, or that Trump or his close associates asked the Russians to interfere or worked with them to do so, he will remain in the White House.

Of course, the fact that he remains in the Oval Office does not mean he is right. Lately it seems that the president would prefer that journalists around this country be more like the state-controlled press back in the Soviet Union, or in today’s Cuba or North Korea—obsequious, biased, submissive and accommodating.

That will never happen in the US. The First Amendment protects journalists from efforts to restrict freedom of speech, so even if Trump wanted to, he cannot shut us up. Instead, he has tantrums and attacks us in public.

Just look at his recent 77-minute speech at his campaign-style rally in Phoenix, one of the most brutal attacks on the press ever made by a president. His rant featured accusations against journalists for creating “fake news” and labeled us enemies of the country. Clearly, the president was enraged.

But, why all the fury? Trump was angry that journalists had correctly reported that he blamed “both sides”—racists and their opponents—for violence at a white supremacist rally in Virginia on August 12. Because they reported, accurately, that Trump had said that there were some “fine people” among white-supremacist demonstrators. And, because he described monuments depicting the Confederate leaders who defended slavery as “beautiful statues.”

Trump is also angry that the press keeps tracks of his lies. The Washington Post has been compiling an ongoing list tallying the president’s claims that were either lies or misleading statements since his inauguration in January. As of August 22, that number was up to 1,057. Journalists are obligated to report when the president of the United States is not telling the truth. They have also reported that Trump has made several racists remarks in the past.

Trump does not like it when journalists tell the truth about his lying, or when we correct the facts that he is citing or when we highlight his remarks about people from other ethnic groups, which would likely lead to the expulsion of a kid saying the same thing in a school. But we cannot expel the president, we can only objectively report the news. Such is our essential social role as journalists, to challenge the president and those in power.

74-Cover-uncover Illustration: Bhaskaran

And, this is an essential critical role. We journalists are critical of Trump not because we are biased or because we hate the United States (as he wants people to believe). Our job is to accurately report on his failures and mistakes.

I have been covering dictators in Latin America for over 30 years. And, as I have mentioned before, sometimes Trump reminds me of characters in Gabriel García Márquez’s novels who think that they are almighty and invincible. But the characters in the Colombian Nobel laureate’s novels and authoritarian leaders in real life always end up falling apart. Trump will not be an exception.

That’s my prediction: Trump will continue being president, and journalists will continue reporting whenever he lies or makes racist, sexist or xenophobic remarks. Trump will continue attacking us, for sure. But we journalists know what to do— the more attacks, the more journalism.

Ramos is a veteran journalist and author.

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