Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

To support President Donald Trump is to be complicit in the rule of a thin-skinned authoritarian who denigrates the free-speech rights of people who criticize him.

The latest illustration: his weekend outburst against Saturday Night Live, a sketch-comedy show that has regularly poked fun at every American president for 40 years. The most powerful snowflake in America was triggered by Alec Baldwin. “Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC!” Trump tweeted. “Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!”

Lest there be any doubt about the implications, Trump tweeted in December 2018, “A REAL scandal is the one sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live,” declaring, “It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal? Only defame & belittle! Collusion?”

Trump’s SNL tweets are of a piece with a larger, disturbing pattern of behavior in which he violates his oath to protect and defend the Constitution by calling for First Amendment freedoms to be abridged by bureaucrats and legislators, and by calling the press a public enemy and a target of his “drain the swamp” agenda.

For example, he has stated:

  • It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write and people should want to look into it.”
  • “Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!”
  • With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!”
  • “Why Isn’t the Senate Intel Committee looking into the Fake News Networks in OUR country to see why so much of our news is just made up—FAKE!”
  • Drain the Swamp should be changed to Drain the Sewer—it’s actually much worse than anyone ever thought, and it begins with the Fake News!”
  • “With all of its phony unnamed sources & highly slanted & even fraudulent reporting, #Fake News is DISTORTING DEMOCRACY in our country!”
  • “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @CNN, @NBCNews and many more) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people. SICK!”

These authoritarian outbursts would justify an article of impeachment. And they ought to embarrass the subset of Trump supporters who purport to value the Constitution and the free-speech principles set forth by America’s Founders.

This article is part of “The Speech Wars,” a project supported by the Charles Koch Foundation, the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, and the Fetzer Institute.

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