As It Happens

'It's a press freedom issue,' blocked journalist says after Trump Twitter ruling

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that U.S. President Donald Trump may not legally block Twitter users — but columnist Lauren Wolfe still can't see his tweets.

President can't legally block Twitter users just because they criticize him, judge rules

Foreign Policy columnist Lauren Wolfe was blocked on Twitter by U.S. President Donald Trump after she corrected him and called him a liar. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Deborah Feingold)

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Foreign Policy columnist Lauren Wolfe still can't see the president's tweets when she signs into Twitter.

A federal judge in New York ruled Wednesday that U.S. President Donald Trump may not legally block Twitter users because doing so violates their rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The judge stopped short of directly ordering Trump to unblock users, saying it was not necessary to enter a "legal thicket" involving courts' power over the president.

Wolfe, who was blocked by Trump last year, spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off about her Twitter history with the president and the implications of Wednesday's court ruling.

Here is part of that conversation. 

Why did President Trump block you on Twitter?

About a year ago, if you recall the terror attacks in London, Trump responded to an announcement made by the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who had said there's nothing to be afraid of.

Trump was criticizing Sadiq Khan, but what Khan had written was there's no reason to be afraid of an increased police presence.

So I tweeted at the president, you know, that is incorrect. 

And I called him a liar, because when he says something completely wrong, I feel like it's the press's duty to call out someone as a liar.

Why did it matter that he blocked you?

Journalists should have access to everything politicians are saying publicly, and this was considered his public arena, so if I can't see those, to me it's a press freedom issue.

But, I mean, this is his own personal account, is it not?

[Former White House press secretary ] Sean Spicer had already declared that these were Trump's public statements, so that kind of moved it from the realm of the personal to the political.

U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald ... said that this is unconstitutional for Mr. Trump to block people. But she didn't order him to unblock. Why do you think that's the case?

I really don't know. I find it surprising. I've reached out to the lawyer on the case to see if I can get an answer.

As of this afternoon I'm still blocked, even though this is a violation of my First Amendment rights.

And how does it affect your work?

It is difficult to report when you cannot access what people are saying, and especially in terms of politicians.

I have to find another way to see things and it takes time out of my day. It is irritating and it's just obviously now illegal.

The stuff that Mr. Trump tweets is all over the place, isn't it? I mean, it's not just policy statements or what he's thinking or what he's planning to do. I mean, there is a lot on his account. How would you describe it?

I would describe President Trump's Twitter feed as a grab bag of whatever thoughts pop into his head.

It's been upsetting to watch a president who doesn't understand the value of speaking clearly with facts and forethought.

It's also ... full of stuff that, as you point out, has been proven to be untrue. There's made-up words. Covfefe, I think, is originally a Twitter word. So if it's all over the place, if there is so much discredited material — I mean, at some point, does it really matter if you have access to it?

Certainly, because the role of the press is to report correct and factual news.

If I can see that he's done something wrong, I can turn around and say: well, this is what's correct.

And if you can't see it, you can't report correctly.

The president's tweets are his official statements, according to his former press secretary. ( @realDonaldTrump/Reuters)

[CBS reporter] Lesley Stahl [said] that she when she spoke to Mr. Trump in November 2016, that he had said to her that the reason why he goes after journalists is that he does it to discredit them all — to demean you so that you when you write negative articles about him, no one will believe you. Do you think that blocking journalists is consistent with that approach?

Yes. Trump has had a consistent campaign to tear down the press.

And in this country ... there have been violent acts against journalists.

One was pushed out of an office to the floor and had his glasses broken by a candidate. Others have been attacked on social media.

Everyone is calling us liars.

People call me fake news — not just the places I write for, they say: you are fake news.

I don't think those people have read anything any of us have actually written. So I don't actually understand this, except that they're following the lead of the president.

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Reuters. Interview produced by Julian Uzielli.


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