This was the headline in the Washington Post:
“The new president of the Philippines says many slain journalists deserved it”
Asked by a reporter how he would handle the killing of journalists in his country, Rodrigo Duterte, the man who will be sworn in as president on June 30, said this:
“Many slain journalists in the Philippines had been corrupt and had ‘done something’ to warrant being killed.
“Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination if you’re a son of a bitch.”
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Philippines is the second-deadliest country for journalists in the whole world. At least 75 journalists have been killed there since 1992. Only Iraq is more deadly. But there’s a war going on there.
I have written about bias in the media and I know how unpopular journalists are with a big chunk of the American people. A lot of reporters are unpopular with me.
But here’s what troubles me about the president-elect’s idiotic statement, besides how shameful it is: I worry that more than a few Americans will agree with him.
Which brings us to Donald Trump, who, because of his brash manner, has been compared to Rodrigo Duterte, unfair as that may be. One left wing comedian said Duterte was the “Trump of the East.”
Trump has called the media “unfair” – and that’s fair enough. I’ve called a lot of the mainstream media unfair. But at his news conference recently, the one about his donations to veteran organizations, Trump went after journalists in his most sustained barrage so far. He said reporters were “dishonest and disgusting,” “losers,” and “sleazy.” Their crime? They asked him legitimate questions about those donations.
We all know how thin-skinned Donald Trump is. Look at him funny and he tries to destroy you. So we should be thankful he’s not as irresponsible as the incoming president of the Philippines. But when asked, “Is this what it’s going to be like covering you if you’re president?” Trump said, “Yeah, it is. I’m going to continue to attack the press.”
A lot of Americans hold the media in low regard. But hard right conservatives especially love that kind of talk. Such is their visceral distaste of the mainstream media. But when Donald Trump talks, his legions listen. And some might get the wrong impression of what he’s actually saying about the press. So Mr. Trump might want to tone it down a bit. Call out genuinely dishonest reporting. That’s fine. But take the rhetoric down a few notches – before someone in the crowd thinks a “sleazy, dishonest” journalist who is a “son of a bitch” had “done something” that warrants a response that includes more than just words.