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Media Credibility Takes Hit After SCOTUS Ruling On Travel Restrictions

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After several months of practical cheering from large segments of the media expecting that injunctions on President Donald Trump’s travel restrictions would be affirmed, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that the administration can enforce its immigration order.

The media’s reporting on Trump’s order as a Muslim ban flowed directly from Trump’s tweets and campaign rhetoric, but under the law, it had very little to do with banning Muslims from entering the U.S. Indeed, Trump referred to it as a “Muslim ban” on the campaign trail, but for the courts — with the help of the media — to give campaign rhetoric more weight than law is not objective when checking the Executive branch. The media’s focus should have been on exposing the differences between a campaign promise and immigration policy so the public can be properly informed and respond accordingly come Election Day.

This follows a disturbing trend of open hostility from media elites toward President Trump, characterized by a gleeful willingness to omit nuance in favor of pleasing viewers seeking ideological validation. This denies them the facts.

Trump’s order bars citizens in six Muslim majority countries, irrespective of faith, from traveling to the U.S. for 90 days, and suspends the refugee program for 120 days. The six countries listed in Trump’s order were identified with the help of the Obama administration, which first labeled them “countries of concern.” Of the countries listed in Trump’s order, only Iran makes the list at 7 of the top 10 countries with the largest Muslim populations in the world, undercutting the charge it was an actual “Muslim ban.”

Liberal constitutional scholars Jonathan Turley and Alan Dershowitz gave their honest legal analysis of Trump’s immigration order and were ultimately proven correct. But at the time, much of the media largely ignored their perspective in favor of their own political and legal analysis.

The media narratives likely had the unfortunate side effect of infecting the circuit courts legally tasked with interpreting the law, not campaign promises. Turley lamented a court that “cherry-picked” conflicting statements from the Trump administration to “fulfill their narrative while ignoring those that did not.” Dershowitz took issue with the lower courts reasoning, pointing out that if the courts consider statements Trump made as a “candidate” when applying the law, the very same immigration order could be “constitutional if issued by one president and unconstitutional if issued by another.”

The Supreme Court’s stay permits the enforcement of the immigration order for those that lack “bona fide relations with a person or entity in the United States,” granting the Trump administration a huge policy victory over his opponents. With the stay scheduled to last until at least October, when the court will review the larger merits, the 90 days the administration sought are essentially achieved. Indeed, the court asked lawyers to prepare to explain why the case is even relevant when the justices reconvene, given that the 90 days would by then be about finished. If at that date the point is considered moot, the court might never even rule at all.

Already, though, large parts of the media are determined to downplay the impact of the Court’s ruling.

The Washington Post took a shot at Trump’s policy victory in its headline, writing, “let’s not get carried away.” The author, Aaron Blake, writes that conservative commentators calling the decision a win for the president represents the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” The ruling, Blake wrote, shouldn’t be considered a “win” since judges on the lower courts rejected it in the first place. Blake continued, writing that this is only a win if we are “simply” talking about the “very low bar” of constitutional limitations — not whether or not the law is “successful or popular.” The Supreme Court’s job is to apply the law as written, not determine the efficacy or popularity of a policy — that’s what elections are for.

The Washington Post’s Tom Nichols presciently bemoaned in February that a media consumed with “overreaction and hysteria” instead of the “merits” of issues can play to the “president’s advantage.” The media’s hyperventilating over their political differences with Trump’s policies affects their credibility going forward and numbs the public to legitimate criticisms of his administration, unintentionally helping Trump whether they want to or not.

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