A Free Press Has the Freedom to Stop Airing Dangerous Lies

I’ve stopped watching the daily coronavirus briefings from the White House. While I’m interested in the information from Dr. Anthony Fauci, I cannot stand to hear the president spout lies, attack reporters, and spread taxpayer-funded propaganda. Nor am I interested in the pandering pablum of the My Pillow executive or the words-without-meaning ramblings from VP Pence. It’s infuriating, though it ought to dispel any lingering romantic notions about America being the greatest nation. If these are our leaders, we are exceptionally unexceptional.

It’s bad enough that we’re using the airwaves to broadcast the idiotic bluster from the White House for hours every day, but it’s criminal that celebu-docs like Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil are being consulted for their thoughts about our response to coronavirus. What’s next? Dr. Drew? Dr. Who? Trapper John, M.D.? Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil have zero credibility and only one of them has a medical license. Both sold their soul to the highest bidder when they chose to hawk dubious treatments and bad advice on the cesspool of daytime television. They are reprehensible con men. They are greedy snake oil salesmen.

You don’t have to give someone a
microphone just because they are speaking.

To be sure, there is only one network turning to these “doctors” for an opinion. Fox News has long been a mecca for bad science. No other network provides so much disinformation to so many willing believers. But Fox isn’t the only network failing the American public right now. Every network that continues to cover the daily White House briefings live is making a wretched decision. News organizations should tape these briefings and air only the segments that can be fact-checked. No network should be airing Trump’s staff-produced campaign rally videos. No network should air his evolving lies about when and how he responded to this virus. No network should abet him in taking over the airwaves each day in an effort to rewrite history. We are not required to air everything the president says just because he is the president.

I’m not arguing for censorship; I’m arguing for editorial decision making. I believe strongly in the First Amendment. I believe in freedom of the press, even when I don’t agree with the press. But if a news organization is judged by what it covers, it should also be judged by what it chooses not to cover. Sometimes turning the camera off is the most responsible decision.

Networks have the power to stop giving voice to the opinions of greedy, self-important, uninformed blowhards like Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, and the President of the United States. They should use that power.

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