Veteran journalist Dan Rather said that the 2016 presidential election — particularly the candidacy of Republican nominee Donald Trump and his vitriolic treatment of the press — has changed how the press covers politics in a manner similar to the Watergate scandal, in a Facebook post published Wednesday morning.
“The shockwaves of this unprecedented presidential campaign have reverberated in every newsroom in this country,” Rather wrote.
Rather noted that this election is the first time he has taken a public stand, as a journalist, directly in the face of a major party’s presidential nominee.
“I have never done anything like this before in my life,” Rather wrote.
Rather’s stance against Trump stems in large part from the billionaire’s criticisms of the press, many of which have recently taken on a progressively caustic tone.
“Watergate ushered in a far greater scepticism of government amongst with press, to an extent that none of us at the time could fully appreciate. Now it is clear that it’s happening again,” Rather wrote, in reference to the tonal shift in media coverage of Trump’s candidacy.
Rather’s post paid liberal mention to an article published by Vox founder Ezra Klein, in which Klein analyses the volatile relationship between Trump and the press. Traditionally seen as a neutral branch between the government and the people, Klein notes that the press’s role in this election cycle has evolved
to one in which the press is emboldened to call out Trump’s brazen statements — often peppered with lies and conspiracies, the most recent of which involved Trump calling President Obama the “founder of ISIS, literally” — for what they are.
Rather also highlighted the flaws in American democracy and emphasised his experience in witnessing those stumbles, specifically referencing segregation, Japanese internment camps during World War II, and the Vietnam War.
“I have seen that what looks like a secure national identity, steeped in the yellowing parchment of our founding documents and promulgated in Washington’s marble temples to our democracy, is a lot more fragile than we would like to believe,” he wrote.
This is not the first time Rather has been vocal about his opposition to Trump. In another post published on June 1, he was sharply critical of Trump’s increasingly bitter tirades against the press, warning, “Trump’s brand of vituperation is particularly personal and vicious. It carries with it the drumbeats of threatening violence.”
When Trump made controversial comments last week about “Second Amendment people” taking action to prevent Hillary Clinton from nominating Supreme Court justices — a call many interpreted as encouraging violence against a political opponent — Rather said Trump had “crossed a line with dangerous potential” and called it “a new low and unprecedented in the history of American presidential politics.”
Donald Trump, for his part, has called the press “crooked,” “slime,” “sleazy,” “disgusting,” “unfair,” and “pathetic,” for its coverage of him, much of which involves quoting the candidate verbatim to hold him accountable for statements he’s made.
Trump has also singled out individual reporters, like when he apparently mocked a disabled New York Times journalist and memorably said Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever,” a statement many saw as a sexist attack, when she asked him tough questions during a primary debate.
He has also blacklisted media organisations that he deems have treated him unfairly from his campaign events, including The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, The Daily Beast, Univision, Politico, The Huffington Post, and The Des Moines Register.
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