It’s no secret that Newt Gingrich is a major fan of Donald Trump. And even though Gingrich is a Fox News contributor, it’s also no secret that he wants to curtail the freedom of the press. He said as much on Sean Hannity’s show, Media Matters reports. He’s gone on record as saying he wants to break the influence of the “adversarial” press.

Gingrich wants Trump to make the press ‘behave’

But under the auspices of the First Amendment, the Trump crew doesn’t get to pick what questions the press asks, notes Diane Ravitch, a Research Professor of Education at New York University, in an article for The Huffington Post.  

In fact, the First Amendment clearly states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

But this seemed to be lost on Gingrich, who lauded Trump’s confrontation with CNN reporter Jim Acosta, saying this has given the incoming administration an opportunity to reshape how the White House press corps interact with Trump and to favor reporters who interact more favorably with the President-elect.

At his January 11 press conference, Trump attacked CNN, demanding that the network apologize for a recent report on his alleged ties to Russia. Acosta repeatedly called out, attempting to ask Trump a related question. Trump definitely did respond — by turning belligerent. Calling CNN “terrible,” he launched into Acosta, calling him “rude” and snapping “I’m not going to give you a question! You are fake news!” Then it was incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s turn. He warned Acosta that he would be removed if he continued to press for a question. Later on, he even demanded that Acosta apologize to Trump.

Trump and his campaign cohorts seem to be doing whatever they can to damage CNN’s credibility and intimidate other networks into avoiding criticizing Trump, and according to Gingrich, “shrink and isolate” the network. But he wants to see the incoming administration to take this a step further. by using the incident as an excuse to “close down the elite press.”

On Hannity-The-Trump-Lover’s show, Gingrich discussed this potential strategy. Spicer, he said, should learn “a couple of big lessons” from the incident. He suggested that Acosta could be banned from covering Trump events for 60 days, “as a signal, frankly,to the other reporters that there are going to be real limits” if they don’t behave properly. Not only that, but Trump should stop prioritizing questions from major news outlets because they’re the ones who ask the hard questions that, after all, his administration doesn’t seem to like.  Instead, Gingrich suggested that he “extend the privileges to reporters from out of town, folks that fly-in from all over the country to be allowed at a briefing.” He maintained that these reporters would be “a lot more courteous” and “responsible” as opposed to being “adversarial.”

Gingrich explained his ideas for the press under Trump, saying “you don’t have to think of The New York Times or CNN or any of these people as news organizations,” he said. “They’re mostly propaganda organizations. And they’re going to be after Trump every single day of his presidency.”

“And he needs to understand that that’s the case, and so does Sean Spicer in speaking for him,” the former House Speaker said. And they simply need to understand they have it in their power to set the terms of this dialogue.”

Trump is already taking these steps, having reportedly made a deal with the right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group, thanks to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The organization owns television stations all over the country. Part of this deal included Trump receiving plenty of air time with no commentary.

And during Wednesdays presser, he took questions from such sycophantic Trump-favoring outlets and One America News Network. Others, like Right Side Broadcasting Network, claim it won’t be long until they are inside White House press briefing room. And eek! Laura Ingraham’s LifeZette and Alex Jones’ conspiracy website Infowars may also be along shortly.

And the noted Russian journalist Alexey Kovalev drew comparisons between Trump’s press conference and ones held by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Writing for Medium, he warned his American colleagues of the similarities and tactics used by both in the alarming “Message To My Doomed Colleagues In The American Media,” which he wrote after Trump’s press conference.

“A mainstay of Putin’s press conferences is, of course, softball questions,” he noted. “These include both hyperlocal issues that a president isn’t even supposed to be dealing with.”

Even so, it provides “a real opportunity for him to shine.” Putin, Kovalev said, also receives plenty of support from “people from publications that exist for no other reason than heaping fawning praise on him and attacking his enemies.”

“But there will always be one token critic who will be allowed to ask a ‘sharp’ question,” he said, “only to be drowned in a copious amount of bullshit, and the man on the stage will always be the winner (See? I respect the media and free speech.’)”

But journalists don’t have to take Trump or his staff’s brow-beating sitting down.

Ravitch notes:

“The next time Trump pulls this stunt, the entire press corps should get up and walk out. Together. En masse. A man like Trump can’t survive without the media. The media should not let him control them. If we the public are to be informed, every member of the press corps should have the same right to ask questions and expect to get an answer.

“We must all protect our constitutional freedoms and not allow them to be eroded, bit by bit.”

We have to also remember that presidents come and go, but the press, in one way or another, has always been here. And certainly, more attacks are going to come. Let’s all hope we are up to the task of defeating them, as we have done for many years.

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