Monday, September 03, 2018


I had to look it up, but if you were wondering what a calumny was, the definition I found had this to say: "a misrepresentation intended to harm another's reputation  - denounced his opponent for his defamatory insinuations and calumny." It sounds a little old school, I grant you, but George Washington was just that. Yes, our first president and father of our country had his challenges with the newly freed press. “Of the sensibility of the President to the calumnies against his Administration with which the press abounded, and of their new direction against him personally, his correspondence furnishes but few evidences,” Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in his biography of old George. Although Washington felt, as he wrote in a letter to a friend that the “arrows of malevolence” aimed at him were “outrages on common decency,” he made no public complaint about them.
What about Thomas Jefferson? Though the press made virulent and vicious attacks on Jefferson’s conduct as President and on his morals as a man, Tom retained his conviction that the press’s contribution to democracy was essential to its survival and must not be tampered with, whatever the provocation. After he left office, he wrote, "Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe.”
And so it has gone for lo these many terms. The adversarial nature of President and Press has continued. You may remember a guy named Richard Nixon who, after an initial grace period with the fourth estate, retreated to a bunker when things went south in large ways. Rising anti-war sentiment fueled sentiments that suggested that maybe the Nixon administration was no friend of the press. Most fondly remembered in Vice President Spiro Agnew's assertion that, "In the United States today, we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism." Those nabobs were, according to his boss, "the enemy." 
Sound familiar? It should, even though the current "President" has referred to the media as "the enemy of the people," instead of just simply the enemy. Don't be fooled. All the calumnies in the world can't make right what has gone wrong during the current administration. And that doesn't mean the ones flying out of the White House, either. 

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