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Why It'll Be Hard for Trump to Surpass Obama's Record of Chilling Press Freedom
‘Folks like Rush Limbaugh, some commentators on Fox News, that hot house ... has been harmful to the country’


Many in the mainstream media are reacting with righteous indignation over comments from a senior Trump adviser suggesting the administration views the traditional media as an opponent. But if we're to take these apostles of press freedom seriously, they should first explain why the Trump Administration is worse than the Obama Administration.

After all, the Obama Administration literally tried imprisoning an uncooperative journalist, monitored journalists' every digital move, and "hammered" at least one challenging reporter with IRS audits.

Let's rewind the tape.

The Obama Administration began with lofty promises of being "the most transparent administration in history." Instead it ended up setting a record, by the Associated Press's count, for denying the most Freedom of Information Act requests.

As the administration's popularity began tumbling early into its first year, the Obama White House declared war on Fox News. The White House director of communications, Anita Dunn, warned they would henceforth treat Fox News "like an opponent," insisting, "we don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave."

The Obama administration made good on that threat. Soon thereafter, the administration sought to deny Fox News' participation in executive branch news-making events -- which only failed after other networks admirably refused to participate if Fox News were excluded.

As you'll see in the montage above, President Obama blamed Fox News and talk radio for virtually every problem his administration encountered, warning in his waning days that these "domestic propagandists" were far more damaging to America than any interference from hostile powers like Russia. 

When Fox News's State Department correspondent, James Rosen, reported accurate information about North Korea leaked by a member of the Obama State Department, Eric Holder ordered his movements to be tracked, his phone records seized, and went "judge shopping" until he found one willing to grant such a warrant without telling Rosen himself. Holder even told Google to not notify Rosen that the government was monitoring his email. 

"To treat a reporter as a criminal for doing his job — seeking out information the government doesn’t want made public — deprives Americans of the First Amendment freedom on which all other constitutional rights are based," the Washington Post wrote at the time.

And it wasn't just Fox News. The New York Times's James Risen was targeted for almost the entirety of Obama's two terms. His crime? Reporting accurate information the Obama Administration didn't want reported. "Along the way, we found out that the government had spied on virtually every aspect of James Risen’s digital life from phone calls, to emails, to credit card statements, bank records and more," the Freedom of the Press Foundation reported. After the Supreme Court rejected Risen's appeal of an earlier order mandating he testify about the source of information he reported, Risen faced jail time. 

After an outcry, Holder finally backed down.

The Associated Press experienced similar surveillance. For two months, the Department of Justice tracked 20 AP reporters' calls, ostensibly over their reporting into a Libyan terrorist's failed plot. Why was reporting on a failed plot so threatening? The AP said it was because the administration wanted to announce the news itself

Obama himself was notorious for granting interviews with journalists whom he knew would treat him gently -- like Steve Kroft. When Obama accidentally exposed himself to a mildly challenging interview with a local reporter in Saint Louis, that reporter was later "hammered" with IRS audits. 

With the Obama Administration, the message to the media was always clear: Report negatively about us, and we'll use the powers at our disposal to make you suffer consequences.

If those journalists currently complaining about the Trump Administration found no such fault with the Obama Administration, perhaps it's because they were all too willing to toe the line.