No, President Trump hasn’t managed to “open up” the country’s libel laws. His fantasies about yanking the “licenses” of uncooperative news outlets are just that — empty threats that not even he has the power to effectuate. He adores reporters too much to shut them out of his White House. He even let them hang around for nearly an hour at a Jan. 9 meeting with congressional leaders.
What he has done is attack “fake news” whenever he espies a negative story. A good portion of his “fake news” chants have been directed at CNN, and his followers in politics and the media have piled on, reciting the “CNN fake news” mantra whenever the 24-7 network arises in conversation.
Some folks see the attacks as mindless political posturing; others may resort to more extreme measures. As CNN itself reported, a Michigan man, Brandon Griesemer, has been arrested after allegedly making 22 calls to CNN’s Atlanta offices on Jan. 9 and Jan. 10. Four of them were recorded; their content is disturbing, not to mention inevitable.
According to an affidavit, the caller in this case made this threat to CNN upon dialing its public contact number on the afternoon of Jan. 9: “Fake news. I’m coming to gun you all down. F[–––] you, f[–––]in’ n–––ers.” Just three minutes later, according to the affidavit, a call came from the same number, this time with more threatening language: “I am on my way right now to gun the f[–––]’in CNN cast down.” The operator asked for a name, triggering another death threat. “F[–––] you. I am coming to kill you,” the caller said.
Other calls warned, “I’m smarter than you. More powerful than you. I have more guns than you,” and “I have a team of people. It’s going to be great, man.” He also said offensive things about Jewish people, according to the affidavit. There’s probable cause, according to the affidavit, that Griesemer transmitted a communication that contained a “threat to injure employees of CNN.”
The same number used in the threats to CNN was used in September 2017, says the affidavit, to call the Islamic Center of Ann Arbor to make derogatory comments about the mosque. Police later contacted Griesemer’s mother, who said that Brandon Griesemer had told her that he’d called a mosque, the affidavit says. Brandon Griesemer later called the police and indicated that he had called the mosque on Sept. 19 and was “angry” during the call, according to the affidavit.
An investigator from CNN did some sleuthing on the case, using databases to trace phone numbers. He eventually had a conversation with someone who identified himself as “Brandon.” Having recorded that call, he compared the voice with that of the man who’d been recorded leveling threats at CNN. The voices sounded like the “same individual,” concluded the investigator.
How could something this frightening take place? For starters, Trump has called CNN “fake news” more than a handful of times on Twitter alone over the past couple of months — including one that came just hours after CNN reported on the threats:
Nor is it surprising that the same fellow threatening “fake news” CNN is allegedly using racist epithets in his disturbing phone calls. That’s because the 45th president has emboldened those who wish to share their racist views with the public. If the country’s chief executive can spout his own racist views in negotiations with congressional officials, why shouldn’t some guy from Michigan do likewise?
A CNN source indicated that threats against network personnel had increased since Trump first started attacking CNN as “fake news,” with much of the nastiness coming over social media. Nearly two dozen threatening phone calls clearly triggered a heightened response from the network, which issued this statement on the matter: “We take any threats to CNN employees or workplaces, around the world, extremely seriously. This one is no exception. We have been in touch with local and federal law enforcement throughout, and have taken all necessary measures to ensure the safety of our people.”
A man who identified himself as Brandon Griesemer’s father told The Post’s Kyle Swenson, “He didn’t know what he was saying, the seriousness of it. We’re not even gun owners or anything like that. We don’t have any, neither does he.”
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