Roosevelt’s War on the Press: New at Reason

Donald Trump's champions and critics agree: He is rewriting the relationship between the press and the presidency. On the pro-Trump side, Newt Gingrich claims that the president's "brilliant" use of Twitter allows him "very quickly over and over to set the agenda at almost no cost," while Press Secretary Sean Spicer says it gives him a "direct pipeline to the American people." Critics highlight how Trump sidelines the press by bullying his critics, rebuffing hard questions, and favoring sympathetic outlets such as Breitbart. They have expressed alarm about Trump's call to "open up" libel laws as a means to quash "horrible and false" stories.

Another president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, revised the media rules in equally profound ways, writes historian David Beiot. Like Trump, FDR feuded with the mainstream media; like Trump, he used a new medium as a direct pipeline to the people. He also used the government's machinery to suppress unfavorable coverage, a fate we hope to avoid in the age of Trump.

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