Kareem Abdul-Jabbar called out Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for the "insidious political crime" of increasingly "attacking the First Amendment's protection of a free press by menacing journalists."
In an essay for The Washington Post's PostEverything section, Abdul-Jabbar detailed Trump's increasingly hostile attacks on the press. On two separate occasions, Trump has thrown Hispanic journalists out of his press conferences. When Fox News' Megyn Kelly asked him during the first GOP debate to account for his offensive rhetoric towards women, Trump repeatedly castigated her for being "unfair" to him, even telling CNN's Don Lemon, "You could see the blood coming out of her eyes ... Blood coming out of her wherever" before declaring Kelly owed him an apology. Even local media outlets are not immune from Trump's ire -- the candidate banned the Des Moines Register from an Iowa campaign event after he was criticized in an editorial.
"If Americans learned that a leader in another country was threatening reporters, we would be outraged," Abdul-Jabbar wrote, "Yet here it is. Right here. Right now." Trump's goal is presumably "to stifle other journalists who might want to ask tough but reasonable questions":
Attempting to bully the press to silence criticism of him is anti-American. He followed up this salvo on the First Amendment with a strike at the 14th Amendment, asserting that he'd like to deny those born in the country their citizenship. The biggest enemy to the principles of the Constitution right now is Trump.
Trump's rationale for avoiding Kelly's debate question - that neither he nor America has time for "political correctness" - taps into a popular boogeyman. The term "political correctness" is so general that to most people it simply means a discomfort with changing times and attitudes, an attack on the traditions of how we were raised. (It's an emotional challenge every generation has had to go through.) What it really means is nothing more than sensitizing people to the fact that some old-fashioned words, attitudes and actions may be harmful or insulting to others. Naturally, people are angry about that because it makes them feel stupid or mean when they really aren't. But when times change, we need to change with them in areas that strengthen our society.
Although each absurd, uninformed or just plain incorrect statement seems to give Trump a bump in the polls, there are only so many times supporters can defend his outrageous assault on decency, truth and civility. Yes, a few will remain no matter what. (One 63-year-old woman told CNN that the Republicans were out to discredit Trump: "They twisted what the words were, because they're trying to destroy him." No one has to twist his words because what he says is twisted enough. He speaks fluent pretzel.) But voters will eventually see the light.
Trump subsequently responded to the essay, with personal attacks that Abdul-Jabbar called "the best, though inelegant, support for my claims. Here again, he attacks a journalist who disagrees with him, not by disputing the points made but by hurling schoolyard insults such as 'nobody likes you.' Look behind the nasty invective and you find an assault on the Constitution in the effort to silence the press through intimidation." Trump wrote:
Now I know why the press always treated you so badly -- they couldn't stand you. The fact is that you don't have a clue about life and what has to be done to make America great again!