Retired Navy Adm. William McRaven, best known for orchestrating the Navy SEAL raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, said President Donald Trump's repeated insults and hostility toward the media are a grave threat to democracy.
"The president said the news media is the enemy of the American people. This sentiment may be the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime," said McRaven on Feb. 21. He is currently the chancellor of the University of Texas system, and he made the remarks at the inaugural event of the Communication and Leadership Speaker Series at UT’s Belo Center for New Media, according to Yahoo News. McRaven graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism in 1977.
"I will tell you as journalism majors, as Americans, you should challenge that sentiment and that statement every opportunity you can," he said. "We must challenge this statement, and this sentiment, that the news media is the enemy of the American people."
McRaven continued: "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."
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But McRaven said reporters should also do their due diligence by getting facts right by not caving into their own biases. He also told reporters to beware of "your hubris as journalists."
In a speech at the University of California, Los Angeles, Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens said Trump's attacks on the media shouldn't be shrugged aside as him just being silly and argumentative.
"I think it’s important not to dismiss the president’s reply simply as dumb. We ought to assume that it’s darkly brilliant -- if not in intention then certainly in effect," Stephens said, according to Time. "The president is responding to a claim of fact not by denying the fact, but by denying the claim that facts are supposed to have on an argument."
Stephens added: "He’s saying that, as far as he is concerned, facts, as most people understand the term, don’t matter: That they are indistinguishable from, and interchangeable with, opinion; and that statements of fact needn’t have any purchase against a man who is either sufficiently powerful to ignore them or sufficiently shameless to deny them -- or, in his case, both."