Our Opinion: Mueller report debunks 'fake news' rap

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Earlier this month the long-anticipated Mueller Report was released — or at least the portions of it that the American people have been allowed to see thus far. Before its release, it was pre-spun by President Donald Trump's captive attorney general, William Barr, and post-spun by the Democrats, the president, his staff, his supporters, his enemies and anyone else with an opinion.

One salient fact, however, is incontrovertible: Despite the president's incessant attacks on the Fourth Estate and his spurious accusations that they are "enemies of the people," the report vindicated the media and forever debunked his accusation that they were promulgating "fake news." In fact, the report revealed that Mr. Trump, through his endless lies and distortions, was the main source for deliberate misinformation and the misleading of the American public. Whether or not his actions warrant impeachment, censure or defeat at the polls in 2020 remains to be seen, but sworn testimony from his associates largely corroborates a version of events painstakingly uncovered by the investigative efforts of hard-working members of the media.

This is particularly important because Mr. Trump's demagogic rantings against the media, deliberately designed to erode their credibility (and thereby neuter their watchdog status as protected under the First Amendment) have put news professionals under threat for their personal safety. This is an understood and accepted risk of the job when covering, say, a combat zone, but when the nation's leader entices crowds to turn and threaten the working media at the rear of a hall in the United States of America, it is a time for everyone, even his supporters, to take a breath and understand the real damage that is being done not only to the media's accepted role but the norms, processes and institutions of democracy with which that role goes hand in hand.

It cannot be repeated too often that the principles upon which this nation was founded exist at the pleasure of its citizens. The Founding Fathers knew that as long as government's mandate derived from the will of the majority, revolution would never acquire the necessary political nutrients for success. The assurance that the electorate would remain knowledgeable enough of current affairs to perform its civic duty rested with the free press guarantees included in Bill of Rights. Therefore, any attack upon those guarantees, particularly by the nation's leader, should be viewed with suspicion if not outright fear.

On the latest Press Freedom Map issued by Reporters Sans Frontieres, an international journalism advocacy group, the United States has now fallen to 48th place in the world, and is listed as a "problematic" country. This is far more than an embarrassment for the nation that virtually invented the concept of press freedom — it is a wake-up call that the harm done to the American way of life by the current administration must be reversed before it is too late. If the American people are ever to become fully aware of the abyss our nation has fallen into — a prerequisite for eventual recovery — they will have to begin by ignoring the president's accusations and once again putting their trust in news organizations have never been their enemy, but rather their protector.

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