PEN America, an organization that represents writers and literary professionals, filed a federal lawsuit in New York that seeks to halt President Donald Trump from using his office to take action against the media.
While Trump is free to call the press the “enemy of the people” and tout “fake news,” PEN America argues that “the First Amendment does not protect all speech.”
Pen America CEO Suzanne Nossel announced the lawsuit in a Politico article Tuesday.
“Although the president can launch verbal tirades against the press, he cannot use the powers of his office to suppress or punish speech he doesn’t like,” wrote Nossel in Politico. “When President Trump proposes government retribution against news outlets and reporters, his statements cross the line.”
The complaint names a number of instances where the group says Trump’s speech has reached outside the bounds of the First Amendment, causing direct governmental action: the Department of Justice moved against the merger of CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, with AT&T following Trump’s threats to take action against CNN for its coverage of his administration; the U.S. Postal Service announced proposed rate increases that will affect Amazon after Trump criticized the Washington Post, which is also owned by Jeff Bezos; and a White House correspondent was barred from a press event after Trump threatened to remove press credentials for reporters who criticized him.
As backing for its suit, PEN American cites a judicial opinion from 2015 where Judge Richard Posner wrote, “a public official who tries to shut down an avenue of expression of ideas and opinions through actual or threatened imposition of government power or sanction is violating the First Amendment.”
A similar opinion was penned in a 2003.