Is the survival of our constitutional republic in jeopardy?

On July 30, your newspaper reported that, after a meeting with President Trump, New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger warned Trump that his rhetoric was “undermining democratic ideals of our nation” and eroding a commitment to free speech and a free press. The publisher claimed (incorrectly) that Trump labeled all news media “fake news” and journalists “enemies of the people.” Just The New York Times and several other specific news media organizations were named by the president.

Mr. Sulzberger also failed to correctly identify the primary threats to our constitutional republic. As early as the late 18th century, presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson warned of three scenarios that would jeopardize the country’s democratic ideals: 1) excessive powers of political parties that supersede the best interests of the American public, 2) corrupt, dishonest and heavily biased newspapers, and 3) an ill-informed or ignorant American public.

In a 1790 letter to his wife, Abigail, President Adams wrote: “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”

Thomas Jefferson believed a free people require a free press. But in 1806, Jefferson wrote: “As for what is not true, you will always find in abundance in the newspapers.” He went on to say that the public is not well-served when it has “no means of distinguishing the false from the true paragraphs of a newspaper.”

These brilliant insights provide reasons for the current contentious and confusing political state of affairs.

So, Mr. Sulzberger, tell us which sources will provide us with the best fact-based, unbiased and intellectually honest news?

Bill Underwood


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