Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton knows what it’s like to be raked over the coals in the press.
The former politician and author of What Happened has previously had a relationship with journalists variously described as “adversarial,” “antagonistic” and “not that complicated—she hates us.” The New York Times, for example, despite endorsing her as a candidate, ran as many cover stories on the controversy surrounding her emails in six days as they did about all policy issues combined in the 69 days leading up to the election.
Yet a new essay by Clinton in The Atlantic, adapted from the final chapter of her book, defends the press—and argues that Donald Trump is “waging war on truth and reason.”
It’s not just the president’s frequent false statements that concern Clinton, but his verbal attacks on journalists and news organizations themselves. She cites a comment Trump made to 60 Minutes reporter Lesley Stahl on the campaign trail: “I do it to discredit you all and demean you all, so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.”
If you’re a public official, being “torn apart” in the press is simply part of the job, she writes. “You get criticized a lot. You learn to take it. You push back and make your case, but you don’t fight back by abusing your power or denigrating the entire enterprise of a free press.”
If Americans no longer trust the news sources that report on politicians, accountability perishes, she says. “We lose our ability to hold people to account, solve problems, comprehend threats, judge progress, and communicate effectively with one another.”
A ”functioning democracy” is contingent on all of those things, Clinton writes—and by insulting the press, the current administration is putting democracy itself at risk.