If you still doubt how the coronavirus can change the world’s political landscape, just take a look at countries like Hungary, where Parliament voted by a two-thirds majority to allow Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to “rule by decree without time limit.”
This involves the suspension of elections and the exception of “certain laws,” as well as media censorship if the government considers the information to be “false or distorted facts” or that “could interfere with the protection of the public,” Politico explained.
And if you read this and think, “that would never happen in the United States,” then you haven’t been paying attention.
During Sunday’s coronavirus press conference, President Donald Trump attacked PBS NewsHour correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, calling her “threatening” and trying to ridicule her as she raised her voice.
Alcindor was asking the president about statements he had made in an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News in which he said that state authorities did not need as much medical equipment as they requested.
“Mr. President, I have two questions,” she said. “The first is you’ve said repeatedly that you think that some of the equipment that governors are requesting they don’t actually need. You said New York might not need 30,000…”
Barely managing to finish the sentence, the reporter was confronted with the president’s deceptive verbiage.
“I didn’t say that,” he said.
“You said it on Sean Hannity’s Fox News,” Alcindor responded.
“Come on, come on. Why don’t you people — why don’t you act a little more positive? It’s always ‘get ya, get ya, get ya.’ And you know what? That’s why nobody trusts the media anymore,” Trump replied.
Stepping into the voice of the journalist, and in a style that he has branded throughout his administration — especially when it comes to journalists, women and people of color — Trump said, “Look, let me tell you something. Be nice. Don’t be threatening. Be nice.”
“Excuse me,” the president insisted, “you didn’t hear me, that’s why you used to work for The Times and now you work for somebody else.”
Trump ended the exchange and did not allow the reporter to continue with the second part of her question. It was not until CNN reporter Jeremy Diamond handed over the microphone that Alcindor was able to try to get any coherent response from the president, failing in the attempt.
She then turned to social media to make clear her commitment to the profession:
“I’m not the first human being, woman, black person or journalist to be told that while doing a job,” she wrote in a tweet. “My take: Be steady. Stay focused. Remember your purpose. And, always press forward.”
Although it is not the first time that the president has lost control in front of the media, contradicted himself, and offered dangerously incorrect information, Sunday’s scene speaks perfectly of how his government is handling one of the worst crises the country has faced in recent years.
Ever since the pandemic touched down on U.S. soil, the president dismissed the danger by promising that it would “disappear like a miracle,” and has since put his campaign for reelection and the “economy” on the back burner as arguments to disregard the recommendations of the specialists.
Even worse: he has reinforced his attacks on the media — the so-called “Fourth State” — for fear that his disastrous administration will be exposed.
As columnist Margaret Sullivan said in her column for The Washington Post: “Trump has proved, time after time, that he doesn’t care about truth, that he puts his financial and political self-interest above that of the public, and that he has no understanding of the role of the press in a democracy.”
“And now lives are on the line.”