Chapter 7: Attacking the fourth estate: the nature and effects of political leaders war with the press
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In the 2016 presidential election, verbal attacks on the press and threats of violence against journalists were commonplace during Trump’s campaign rallies. Since then, critiques of the media have increasingly become a staple in political discourse; Trump even characterized the press as the “enemy of the American people.” Of course, this is not the first time that politicians have espoused attacks on the media as a political strategy. Political leaders often discredit the press as elitist, distrustful, and biased in an attempt to spin the facts and align themselves with the “everyday” voter. In this chapter, I examine the nature of press attacks by US political leaders throughout history. Then, I present original data that characterize the frequency and nature of Trump’s criticisms of the press on Twitter. Finally, I turn to social science research to help us better understand the effects of such media attacks on voters.

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