PEN America is suing Trump for his attacks on the press
PEN America, a literary activism group comprised of thousands of writers, has taken the step of suing a sitting President for his attacks on the press.
Tuesday, the organization filed a suit in federal court in Manhattan, alleging that Trump “violated the First Amendment and his oath to uphold the Constitution” via what PEN refers to as “official acts.”
In the lawsuit, they point to Trump’s alleged involvement in blocking the merger of AT&T and CNN after the latter was on the wrong end of many a Trump tirade. They also point to Trump’s comments about Washington Post and Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, whom he has threatened with an antitrust lawsuit. Trump has also put pressure on U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double shipping costs for Amazon, despite the fact that shipping costs have already been raised several times over the past decade.
According to the complaint in the suit, “President Trump has First Amendment rights and is free to criticize the press vehemently, but he is not free to use the power and authority of the United States government to punish and stifle it.” PEN America’s chief executive officer Suzanne Nossel told the Associated Press in an interview earlier this week that Trump has crossed that threshold. “There is widespread concern that the president is actually extracting reprisals on the media for coverage he considers unfavorable,” Nossel explained. PEN America is not seeking any punitive costs, but instead only wants the court to cover the costs of legal fees and other relief which it is leaving to the discretion of the court.
David A. Schulz, co-director of the Yale Law School’s Media Freedom and Information Clinic, who is also serving as co-counsel with a non-partisan, non-profit organization called Protect Democracy on the lawsuit, told the AP “We wouldn’t be filing this lawsuit if we didn’t think it would be meritorious… There is so much evidence of the president’s motives.”
Nossel emphasized that neither Bezos nor CNN had been invited to join the lawsuit, before explaining to the AP, “Media organizations are focused on covering the news objectively and providing the essential transparency and accountability that is the work of a free press… Every organization has to make their own determination of how best to play their role in this environment. That media organizations might determine to focus on journalism should not mean that the President’s violations go unchallenged by those affected by them.”