The retired admiral who designed and oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden says President Trump’s superheated charge that the mainstream news media is the “enemy of the American people” is not just wrong, but also could pose a dire threat to American democracy. Reporters, however, must get their facts right, cite reliable sources and be aware of their own biases and pride.
“The president said the news media is the enemy of the American people,” William McRaven said Tuesday. “This sentiment may be the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime.”
The former Joint Special Operations Command leader, now chancellor of the University of Texas system, made the remarks at the inaugural event of the Communication and Leadership Speaker Series at UT’s Belo Center for New Media. McRaven graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1977 with a degree in journalism.
“I will tell you as journalism majors, as Americans, you should challenge that sentiment and that statement every opportunity you can,” he continued. “We must challenge this statement, and this sentiment, that the news media is the enemy of the American people.”
McRaven went on, “I have traveled all around the world. I’ve been to 90 different countries and I have talked to the press in almost every one of those countries. We have the finest press in the world, bar none. Bar none. And it is the single most important institution for this republic.”
But challenging the notion that the press is the enemy of the American people means that “you have got to have the facts right, you have got to make sure that your sources are solid,” he said. And “you have to be careful about your bias,” he said.
And reporters must be aware of “your hubris as journalists,” he said.
The comments were first reported by the Austin-American Statesman and confirmed to Yahoo News by the University of Texas System Office of External Relations.
McRaven was referring to Trump’s Feb. 17 tweet in which the president said: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
It’s not the first time McRaven has taken on Trump. In late January, the retired officer released a statement sharply critical of the president’s executive order barring refugees from the United States for 120 days and blocking immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries for three months.
“I believe that the talent, energy, and ideas flowing into the United States of America — and to UT System institutions — from countries around the world are among our greatest strengths,” McRaven said in a statement. “The men and women who show up at our shores and our doors — ready to study, work, and participate — make us stronger, smarter, more competitive, and more attuned to the rest of the globe.”
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