- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 2, 2017

Sen. Ben Sasse on Sunday charged that President Trump wants to “weaponize distrust” in the press and warned that America is headed down a dangerous path if citizens listen only to media outlets and political leaders that reinforce their own personal views.

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” the Nebraska Republican and frequent critic of the president laid out what he believes is a direct threat to the First Amendment, arguing there are potential long-term ramifications to the nation if current trends continue.

He said media outlets must be held accountable and called out for errors and obvious bias, but that blanket criticism of the entire media is the wrong approach.

“There’s an important distinction to draw between bad stories or crappy coverage, and the right citizens have to argue about that and complain about that, and trying to weaponize distrust. The First Amendment is the beating heart of the American experiment and you don’t get to separate the freedoms that are in there,” Mr. Sasse said.

The freshman Republican went on to suggest that many Americans, including Mr. Trump, are perpetuating a society in which citizens listen only to those who agree with their own political views, and that the bedrock idea of absolute, indisputable facts on which everyone can agree is going by the wayside.

“The reality is journalism is really going to change a lot more in the digital era and we have a risk of getting to a place where we don’t have shared public facts. A republic will not work if we don’t have shared facts,” he said.

“It is going to be possible in the next three or five or 10 years for people to surround themselves only with echo chambers and silos and people who believe only what they already believe. That’s a recipe for a new kind of tribalism, and America won’t work if we do that.”

Mr. Sasse’s comments come after the president over the weekend launched yet another attack on the media, a strategy that was a hallmark of his 2016 campaign and of his tenure so far in the White House. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called on Mr. Trump to stop such attacks.

“It’s not helpful to call the press the enemy of the American people,” Mr. Sasse said.

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