A new revelation concerning Donald Trump’s war on the free press has offered further insight into what we already knew to be a dangerous and disturbing development. Anyone who still dismisses Trump’s rhetoric as “just” words or tweets should take a look at an incident concerning a New York Times correspondent in Egypt. This story is enough to remove any doubt that Trump feels so threatened by the idea of a free press that he will go so far as to put lives and liberty at risk to protect himself.
The New York Times, via an opinion piece by publisher A.G. Sulzberger, yesterday publicly revealed an incident in which a correspondent, Declan Walsh, faced “imminent arrest” in Egypt. The Times learned about Declan’s situation thanks to a call from a U.S. government official. Although this type of call is unfortunate, it is actually very commonplace. However, the circumstances surrounding this particular call and the way the situation got resolved are “surprising and distressing.”
The U.S. official contacted the Times of his own accord because no one in the Trump administration was planning to take any diplomatic steps to help Walsh avoid arrest. In fact, the official feared he could face serious consequences because the Trump administration did not authorize or even know about his call. Even worse, the official told the Times that he believed Trump wanted the correspondent’s arrest to happen. Fortunately, Walsh avoided detention—not thanks to the U.S. government but in spite of it. The situation ended positively for Walsh only because the Times then contacted Ireland, Walsh’s native country, which promptly sent Irish diplomats to escort Walsh to the airport before Egyptian authorities could apprehend him.
Although Sulzberger just revealed Walsh’s story yesterday, it took place in 2017. It fills in a piece of a larger portrait Trump has been painting of a demagogue aimed at destroying America as we know it for his own selfish benefit. As Sulzberger noted, “This isn’t just a problem for reporters; it’s a problem for everyone, because this is how authoritarian leaders bury critical information, hide corruption, even justify genocide.” Our free press has only grown even more fearless and determined since 2017. Unlike Trump, whose days appear to be numbered, our free press is here to stay.