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EDITORIAL: Trump’s announcement and the First Amendment

With the midterm elections over — along with the barrage of mailers, phone calls and TV spots — voters can be excused if they’re not eager to be immersed in the next campaign. Yet there was Donald Trump on Tuesday delivering a “very big announcement” about his intention to again seek the GOP presidential nomination in 2024.

Mr. Trump’s timing turned out to be less than propitious. Many of his highly touted, hand-picked candidates were soundly defeated on Nov. 8, and critics blamed the former president for hampering Republican gains in what was projected to be a big year for them.

Interestingly, Mr. Trump barely mentioned any of this in his hour-long campaign kickoff address, which focused instead on the nation’s challenges moving forward.

The reaction to Mr. Trump’s announcement was decidedly mixed. But for one member of Mr. Trump’s inner circle, the fact that news networks didn’t carry every word of her boss’ oratory was an indication of something sinister at work.

“They don’t want the American people to hear directly from the biggest leader of the greatest political movement in our history,” Trump spokeswoman Liz Harrington told a radio talk show. “So I do suspect they’ll try to censor and cut away. However, the people are anxious to hear from him. So they will go right around the major networks if they do indeed cut away … because that’s what you have to do now. We do not have the First Amendment, it’s under attack.”

Yes, well … the First Amendment may certainly be under attack in some circles — it usually is — but Ms. Harrington’s concerns offer no example of such. She certainly should know that private news organizations — whether they skew to the left, right or middle — were under no obligation to air any portion, let alone all, of Mr. Trump’s presidential announcement. The Bill of Rights imposes a host of prohibitions against government conduct in an effort to promote and preserve individual freedom. It doesn’t mandate that the media provide coverage to former or current politicians.

If Ms. Harrington wants to criticize the media, fine. It’s a line of attack that has proved fruitful for Mr. Trump — and it’s not hard to argue that many powerful news outlets have been overtly hostile to him. But it might be more effective if her assaults on the media weren’t based on an interpretation of the First Amendment that any high school civics student would recognize as fallacious and faulty.

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