The media seems to have ignored Judge Clarence Thomas’s comments during a recent libel case before the Supreme Court. He referred to a 1964 landmark decision in New York Times v. Sullivan, saying he thought it should be overturned. That ruling made it difficult for public officials to bring frivolous law suits against journalists. (“Talking Points,” The Week, March 8, 2019, pg. 16.)
Having been a public figure, I understand Thomas’ frustration. While in office, I was sometimes the victim of cavalier reporting. I complained, of course. But the best I achieved for my effort was to find a tiny retraction buried behind the “help wanted” section of the newspaper.
Trial by media is unjust. I eschew the current trend that forces a public figure to resign purely on the basis of an accusation. Not matter what a public opinion polls shows, resignation should be the last resort, not the first. Otherwise, we have, not justice, but a lynching.
Social media didn’t exist when I was in office. Instead, constituents who were offended by a comment ascribed to me could ring my landline telephone off its hook. Or, they could write letters to the editor. I thought that was embarrassing enough. But today, a misconstrued word can set Twitter on fire and the mainstream media with it. Profit follows controversy as surely as a warbler answers his mate’s call.
I feel sorry for the new, bright stars of Congress. The public’s fascination with them seems to plunge them into daily controversy. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s declares she will take arms against a sea of rumors and chides Barrack Obama for failing to deal with his birther charges strongly enough.
She’s right to correct false reports. In fact, it’s her public duty. But, rather than criticize Obama for the calm manner with which he comported himself, she should learn from him. Bear baiting never unhinged him. He reserved the bulk of his energy to serve his country. The last person Ocasio-Cortez and others should emulate is Donald Trump, a man who prefers to fight rather than to lead.