Free Press

Think Trump's Attacks on Journalism Are Bad? San Francisco Cops Literally Raided a Reporter's Home.

Actions speak louder than words. Trump 's labeling of the media as "the enemy of the people" is bad, but he's not breaking into reporters' homes to find leakers. That's what the San Francisco Police Department did.


Reporters have long denounced Donald Trump's "war on journalists" given the president's routine Twitter attacks about "fake news," his kind words about authoritarian rulers who have abused the media, and his idea to "open" libel laws so politicians can more easily sue publications. He praised a congressional candidate accused of assaulting a reporter. "Any guy who can do a body slam—he's my kind of guy," Trump said at a 2018 Montana rally.

"In Donald Trump's America, the mere act of reporting news unflattering to the president is held up as evidence of bias," intoned a 2017 Los Angeles Times editorial. "Journalists are slandered as 'enemies of the people.'" The American Prospect complained last October that "the president is dehumanizing journalists on the campaign trail and priming his base for more assaults on the First Amendment."

As a journalist, I'm likewise disgusted by Trump's words and believe they could incite his angriest supporters. He's playing with fire, but the president hasn't actually done anything to abridge press freedom, even if we fear what he might like to do. It's all words and bluster. Frankly, those concerned about this "war" should hope that Trump doesn't take lessons from several disturbing recent actions against reporters here in California.

The latest example came in Democratic San Francisco, but the scene isn't particularly uplifting of the city's oft-touted liberal values. After the unexpected death of the city's elected public defender, Jeff Adachi, a freelance reporter secured a copy of the related police report and apparently sold the information—some of it pretty salacious—to news outlets. The San Francisco Police Department wants to find the source of the leak.

"Police used a sledgehammer to try to get into (the reporter's) home and office and cuffed him for hours as they searched and subsequently removed dozens of cameras, cellphones, computers and other equipment used to gather news," the Associated Press reported. Police are trying to figure out his role in getting the report. The AP notes that it's not illegal for reporters to receive or publish information, even if it were improperly obtained by a third party. Police reports are supposed to be public records.

This is a heavy-handed approach to a leaked document. "The impact of trying to criminalize disclosure of public records, whether or not it violated internal policy or practice, will have a profound effect on public employees' willingness to disclose public records," said attorney Duffy Carolan, quoted by AP. This is more chilling of free speech than some ill-tempered presidential tweets.

I'm not the first person to notice the irony. In his recent column, CALmatters' Dan Walters noted that if something similar happened at the federal level, "Democratic politicians and civil libertarians would erupt in outrage at a heavy-handed government act intended to discourage journalists from delving into areas that officialdom considered off-limits." Indeed. There has been criticism, but nothing compared to the "Trump's war on journalists" rhetoric. What gives?

Walters also pointed to an ongoing case that, in my estimation, is far more disturbing than the San Francisco raid. Early in the year, reporters from UC Berkeley's Investigative Reporting Program made a public-records request to the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training for a list of the 12,000 California police officers, police applicants and former officers who were convicted of crimes, many of them serious. POST did the right thing and provided the records.

When California Attorney General Xavier Becerra found out, he threatened to criminally prosecute the reporters unless they destroy records that were provided by a public agency. Becerra claims the information is confidential even though it involves public records about official verdicts. And to reiterate, state law forbids prosecution of reporters merely for receiving records—and they received the info from an agency within Becerra's own department.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr has been accused of behaving like Trump's personal attorney rather than an impartial top cop regarding the Mueller report. But Becerra makes Barr look like a font of impartiality by contrast. A close ally of police unions, Becerra is shielding records that are uncomfortable to police even though the records protect public safety. Shouldn't you get to know if the cop pulling over your wife on a dark highway has a rap sheet?

Beyond threatening to prosecute reporters, Becerra has refused to fully comply with a new law that requires the release of police disciplinary records. Becerra doesn't attack the media with words, of course, but his actions speaker loudly. This isn't anything new, either.

Becerra has pursued criminal charges against reporters who produced embarrassing undercover videos of Planned Parenthood back in 2015. The Times, which criticized the reporters' message and methods, nevertheless called the prosecutions a "disturbing overreach." But there's too-little coverage of that situation. There's no defense of President Trump's most vile anti-media rhetoric, but we should be even more upset at actions that are much worse.

This column was first published in the Orange County Register.

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  1. ^Journalist snowflake^

    1. It’s certainly hard to see why anyone who colludes with someone who perpetrates a criminal leak should be treated differently than a purveyor of criminal “satire.” It’s true that a so-called news item is easier to ignore than a Gmail, but clearly what counts is the intent that both types of criminals share to damage reputations by inappropriately calling attention to certain facts that must not be released or indeed mentioned at all. Here at NYU we have fought hard to control what kind of “information” goes around, and we argued, in memos distributed to many of our colleagues in other universities, including in California, that the laws of all states should be revised to make it clear that “free speech” has nothing to do with such matters. See the documentation of our nation’s leading criminal “parody” case at:

  2. “Think Trump’s Attacks on Journalism Are Bad?”

    Nope. Actually, that’s one of his very few redeeming qualities. Also, “Journalism”, I do not think it means what you think it means.

    1. Trump has in no way attacked journalism. He has however, called out partisan hack conspirators for pretending to be journalists.

      Not that same thing. Not even a little.

    2. His calling out fake news while sometimes wrong but sometimes correct has properly called into question the credibility of the news. In a crude fashion he has achieved a good, challenging the news media and their errors and/or biases.

  3. Talking bad about journalists is bad, arresting journalists is worse. Unfortunately, I could see Trump at some point having a journalist harassed by law enforcement and I can’t imagine any other previous president doing such a thing. We’ve truly sunk to a new low. (James Rosen might disagree, but it’s not like he works for a legitimate news organization.)

    1. “… I can’t imagine any other previous president doing such a thing. ”

      Pretty sure we do not have to imagine, only think back a few years.

    2. Why would raising the fact that many in the media are liars, be bad?

      More and more Americans know that the media is full of liars and are ignoring the propagandists more and more. This is the real fear of the media types. Nothing worse than having your propaganda ignored.

    3. Imagine being this dumb

    4. Talking bad about journalists is the same sort of “bad” as the journalists talking bad about him; It’s just an exercise of 1st amendment rights, which even Trump possesses.

      Sure, you could “see” Trump at some point having a journalist harassed, but until it happens outside your imagination, he’s not guilty of anything. And your failure of imagination concerning previous Presidents is slightly endearing, but really kind of pathetic. The name, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula ring a bell with you? The guy Obama lied about having caused the Benghazi attack, and had jailed?

      Trump hasn’t done anything remotely as hostile to journalists as that.

      1. +100

      2. +1

      3. Bravo!!

      4. For progressives, fantasy is more real than reality.
        There’s a term for that: psychosis

      5. One more tidbit on that one:

        Even if the allegation that the attack was inspired by his video were true (it wasn’t, and they knew it when they said it), it was still the duty of the President of the United States to defend his right to publish that video, not persecute him for doing so.

        Excellent example that really underscores the mendacity of the media on this topic.

    5. Maybe you can see Trump harassing Journalists, but he hasn’t actually done it yet. OTOH it seems to be fairly common behavior…in Democrat controlled cities like San Fran.

      Tump’s ‘War on Journalists’ consists – at least so far – of not rolling over and waving his legs in the air when he’s attacked. “the mere act of reporting news unflattering to the president” may not be evidence of bias, but the continued harping on dubious negative stories in a manner that makes the old Hearst papers look subtle IS. And – horror of horrors! – Trump hits BACK. That AIN’T FAIR! WHINE!


      Journalism and political propaganda have always been joined at the hip. Newspapers started out as political broadsheets, and haven’t really ever changed much. The phantasm of ‘unbiased journalism’ is a creation of the Progressive Left; a propaganda tool that has served them well. But it isn’t reality, and they deeply resent Trump pointing that out.

      Too bad.

      And in the meanwhile, Democrat controlled districts actually DO what the Democrats accuse Trump of doing. Trump is crass, but he isn’t the Fascist here.

      1. Look, no democrat president would ever wiretap a journalist. Or send the FBI in to threaten a journalist with arrest.

        But Trump might just do something like that….. maybe.

        Well, I take a bit of that back. Trump actually did allow his DOJ to continue Obama’s targeting of Assange. But he didn’t continue those other policies.

    6. Free Speech Zones – they don’t ring a bell?

    7. I guess you forgot that President Lincoln had reporters and newspaper editors arrested en masse.

    8. “…Unfortunately, I could see Trump at some point having a journalist harassed by law enforcement and I can’t imagine any other previous president doing such a thing…”

      The fantasy lives of those with TDS really aren’t of much interest to most of us.
      Try JFree, Libertymike and Tony; they’ll be happy to share that joint.
      Or you could grow up.

  4. So, California is fvcked up? We already knew that.

    But you had to get your TDS in there somehow, eh?

    You’re a twat, Greenhut.

  5. “Actions speak louder than words. Trump ‘s labeling of the media as “the enemy of the people” is [accurate],”

    1. +100

  6. Trump ‘s labeling of the media as “the enemy of the people” is bad,

    It’s NOT bad. It’s true. The media is full of propagandists who literally lie and then try to convince the public that they are not liars.

    1. The problem with journalism is the journalists.

      1. Actually, the trouble with journalism is the lack of real journalists.

  7. San Francisco is literally like Stalin !!!

  8. So what does Trump have to do with this story? Or is this the sort of “beating your wife isn’t that bad compared to murdering her” story? Is “at least there’s SOMEONE worse” really the standard of conduct and ethics you’d be okay holding a president to?

  9. “So what does Trump have to do with this story? ”

    Nothing really. But since writing it involved noting the malfeasance of a progressive enclave (enslave) the Reason stylebook demanded a “both sides” approach.

    1. Oh, you mean it was “whataboutism”?

      1. Whataboutism usually includes common frames of reference. This one is action vs imagined action.

  10. The corporate press is the enemy of the people. But orange man bad and I need a job at the Atlantic so here’s me joining the corporate press with some fear garbage

  11. For fucks sake, the authors attack on Trump is obviously more of amash’s Libertarian campaign than evidence that Trump is an opponent of free speech.

    Lying should be illegal for everyone, everywhere like it already is in court and contracts. Why should they be the only places where justice is protected?

    Trumps attack on lying media is a good thing. He’s too stupid to realize that should all lies be criminalized, the new Trump hotel would have bars on the windows and his best action as president would also be his last.

    The sad truth is however, the white knight of the Libertarian presidential wet dreams, would do no more than any other useless politician to minimize the corruption caused by lying.

    1. Rob Misek
      May.31.2019 at 9:15 am
      “Lying should be illegal for everyone, everywhere like it already is in court and contracts. Why should they be the only places where justice is protected?”

      Rob, what color is the sun on your planet? Did you keep THE JOOZE from landing there?

      1. About the Jewish religions relationship with lying.

        On their holiest day of the year, Jews chant the Kol Nidre.

        “All vows, obligations, oaths or anathemas, pledges of all names, which we have vowed, sworn, devoted, or bound ourselves to, from this day of atonement, until the next day of atonement (whose arrival we hope for in happiness) we repent, aforehand, of them all, they shall all be deemed absolved, forgiven, annulled, void and made of no effect; they shall not be binding, nor have any power; the vows shall not be reckoned as vows, the obligations shall not be obligatory, nor the oaths considered as oaths.”

        It’s basically telling God that they’re going to lie next year so get over it and forgive us already.

  12. Journalists continue to believe that everyone was enamored with them until Trump showed up, news at 11

    1. +10

  13. wikiHow taught me how to be an ‘expert,’ and now it’s teaching me how to be a ‘journalist.’

  14. you need a good online job so please visit this site……..

  15. Trump did not call “the press” the enemy of the people. That is a lie. He called the “fake news media”, listing specific outlets, the enemy of the people.

    Here is the actual quote:
    “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!

    He has subsequently called “the fake news media” the enemy of the people on multiple occasions. He has never once said journalists or the press in general is the enemy of the people.

  16. So, since the campaign there have been a bunch of studies about the media coverage of Trump. From the RNC convention onward they have been consistent – coverage of Trump has been heavier than historic averages and it has been consistently over 90% negative.

    Including any insinuation that a claim of bias in the media is disingenuous or deluded is not just unwarranted, it is disingenuous and deluded. No democrat president or presidential candidate in your lifetime has even approached 50/50 positive/negative coverage. And no president has ever received this level of negative coverage. Obama often hovered near the 90% positive range. Even during impeachment, Clinton received mostly positive coverage. After nearly 3 years of consistently negative coverage (during a huge economic boom), claiming that protestations of bias in the media are anything other than factual is a straight-up lie.

    Robbie style disclaimer: This comes from the guy who predicted on this very site that Trump would never receive a single vote when real votes were counted. Trump ain’t my guy, far from it. But you guys are over-the-top dishonest, probably even in your own thoughts on the matter. He may be a blowhard and even a buffoon, but on this front he is orders of magnitude more honest than his critics.

  17. So… reason had to go off the farm to get an article that has a halfway balanced arrive about Trump…
    One that has the conclusion that we need more coverage of media being bullied by politicians… Except the corrupt media would be the only ones that could fix that…

  18. As a San Francisco resident, I can provide a bit more background on this story.

    The raid on the home and office of freelance journalist Bryan Carmody, which involved not just the SFPD but also the FBI, was completely unacceptable, and has been widely condemned locally, including in a press release by the Libertarian Party of San Francisco.

    However there is a bit more to this story than meets the eye. Elected Public Defender Jeff Adachi, although a leftist, was an honest one and as good a person in that job as a libertarian could ask for, consistently and outspokenly standing up to condemn and expose police abuses. I wrote an op-ed piece in March on his positive legacy, which you can read at Naturally, the police union and most retrograde, anti-freedom elements of the SFPD hated him.

    So when he died of heart trouble while in the company of a woman not his wife (likely a sex worker), after possibly using marijuana and cocaine, officers responded to the scene even though there was no need (no signs of foul play), and somebody in the SFPD leaked the info in the hopes of posthumously harming Adachi’s reputation.

    When the local political establishment reacted angrily against that leak and the likely motives behind it and demanded an investigation, I think other anti-freedom elements in law enforcement saw the opportunity to aggressively comply with those demands in a manner that they hoped would go unchallenged due to the circumstances, and set a precedent for abusing their power to go after members of the press.

    The good news is that if this is what happened, it looks like the effort backfired. There is now talk on the SF Board of Supervisors of strengthening protections for journalists against police interference, and the SFPD backtracked and said Carmody’s property would be returned to him, while police chief William Scott felt compelled to state that his department “fully” supports the First Amendment rights of journalists.

    1. Does not matter where you fall on existing drug law, when an officer of the court, who is also a public official dies from or with illegal drugs in his system it is newsworthy.

    2. Hey! Long time, no electrons!
      But, for all of his accomplishments (and I’m not gonna beat on him, either), Adachi was a ‘public figure’ and your and my employee.
      Perpetrating the goody-two-shoes image is not the job of the media, as the press has discovered since Trump was elected.

  19. “As a journalist, I’m likewise disgusted by Trump’s words and believe they could incite his angriest supporters.”

    If you are more disgusted by Trump’s words than by the fake news in the form of lies, misreporting, misrepresentation, suppression of stories and blatant political grandstanding of journalists that he is calling out then you are not speaking as a journalist. Indeed you are speaking as an apologist for the very thing that is destroying professional journalism: abuse of the public’s trust in journalism which has all but eroded that trust in a large part of the population.

    Incite his angriest supporters to do what? Since when has a preemptive claim of incitement (as far as I know this “incitement” has not been associated with any actual criminal act against a journalist) been a reasonable way to silence criticism of public figures who have a large amount of power?

    The fact that you mentioned Trump at all in this piece is the very kind of dishonest, hack journalism that he is calling out. He has nothing to do with police action in San Francisco. He has no authority over them in their roles as police officers. You are just rabidly anti-Trump, and want to take any opportunity to criticise him.

    Like other hack journalists you have completely lost all impact in any criticism of Trump for things he actually does wrong. For example I am sure he does sometimes attack the press unfairly, as do many politicians (Obama when he said FNC was not a real news organisation, as a prime example; FNC was far fairer on him than CNN is on Trump), but because they so often deserve criticism the only people siding with the press against the POTUS are those who would take sides against him anyway. Thanks to this article, nothing you say about Trump criticising the press has any credibility at all, so you have joined the majority of the legacy media in irrelevance on the subject.

    1. Oh, and I should add that by referring to Trump you completely lost the impact of this story. Now I read it properly, it is a shocking abuse of police power. But you buried the lede. The first three paragraphs are about Trump

      You even manage to fit in a snide paragraph about Barr! To justify it you use a classic dishonest tactic of hacks everywhere, reporting “other people accused xxx of…” so you don’t have to justify why you are saying anything at all. Barr appears to be one of the least politicised lawyers in Washington. Compared to Holder or Lynch, both of whom were openly corrupt, he is a paragon.

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