Lawmakers, constitutional rights experts join protest of Trump’s press offensive outside New York Times Building
“We are here today standing in support for freedom of the press,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney said. (SHAWN INGLIMA/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)
It’s not often that New York politicians go to bat for the press.
But lawmakers and constitutional rights experts came out swinging Saturday on behalf of the media — blasting the Trump administration’s treatment of journalists.
The group, headed by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, held court on Eighth Ave., outside the New York Times’ Midtown office, in response to the unprecedented decision by Trump officials to bar The Times, CNN, the Daily News and other major news organizations from attending a press briefing at the White House while hand-picking other reporters to attend.
“We are here today standing in support for freedom of the press,” Maloney said. “The outrageous act by this administration should be condemned by all the members of Congress. It should be condemned by the public at large.”
Trump has long railed against the media, labeling stories critical of him or his administration as “fake news.”
Last week, he tweeted that several outlets were the “enemy of the American people.”
But Friday’s unusual move to cancel a public briefing by press secretary Sean Spicer and replaced it with an off-camera gaggle open only to a select few outlets took the offensive to new heights.
“We are protesting this act of exclusion,” Maloney said. “We find it alarming and that it violates our the First Amendment.”
Some protesters who joined Saturday’s rally held signs that read “Don’t be bullied ... keep reporting!” and “WE stand for a free press!”
Civil rights attorney Norman Siegel invoked many cases where the government and the press butted heads, but called the current administration’s actions unprecedented.
“We’re not going to stand by because at least in my lifetime we’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “I submit to the American public that we are presented with a clear and present danger to the principles and values to our Constitution.
“We cannot stand by idly, we cannot be silent,” Siegel added.
He called on publishers and other media heads to use the courts if necessary to fight for the freedom to report on the administration.
Trump, meanwhile, promised to keep up his offensive.
The President devoted nearly a quarter of his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference Friday to assailing the press.
“I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake, phony, fake,” Trump said. “A few days ago, I called the fake news ‘the enemy of the people,’ and they are. They are the enemy of the people. Because they have no sources. They just make them up when there are none.”