The day after violence erupted at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign unveiled a new ad focusing on his “enemies.”

As the ad’s narrator mentions Trump’s foes, it showcased the faces of many members of the Fourth Estate (including some who work for CNN).

Since bursting onto the political scene more than two years ago, Trump has relentlessly pounded journalists as “the enemy of the American people” and “among the worst people I’ve ever met.” He hijacked the term “fake news,” originally coined to describe bogus narratives circulated on the Internet, to describe any story that displeases him.

Trump is taking his anti-press tirades to new levels in an audacious and unrelenting campaign to delegitimize and demonize the media. In the process, he’s denting the longtime international view of the United States as the uncompromising champion of freedom of the press. Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, says the consensus abroad has become more like, “You are no longer the shining city on the hill.”

Media attorney Charles Tobin shares his concern.

“Journalism is the lifeblood of democracy, and the last thing we need is poison coursing through its veins,” he says. “Trump has the bully pulpit, and he has used it like a bully. When he labels journalists the enemy, he diminishes the news media to a large segment of the public. It’s working all too effectively.”

Tobin says he hasn’t seen any impact yet at the courts. During the campaign, Trump said he would like to “open up” libel laws but hasn’t followed through, and libel law generally is a state matter. Still, Tobin is not sanguine about the future. “There is a whole poisonous truth-doubting atmosphere permeating our society,” he says. “Will that have an impact on the courts? I worry about this.”

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