Dan Rather to Bannon and Trump: The press is 'not going to shut up. Now answer the damn question.'
Eighty-five-year-old journalist Dan Rather has mastered the art of the clap back.
On Thursday, during an appearance on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Rather sent a strongly worded messaged to President Donald Trump and his advisor Steve Bannon, both of whom have described the press as "the opposition."
"[Trump's] principle advisor, Mr. Steve Bannon, recently said, almost directly, 'the press needs to shut up,'" Rather explained. "Well, our answer to that has to be, 'With respect, sir, no — we're not going to shut up. Now answer the damn question.'"
The veteran journalist noted in his interview that the political climate in the United States is unprecedented, along with the current administration's open disdain for the media.
During Saturday's address to the CIA, Trump said, "[Journalists are] the most dishonest human beings on Earth," according to the Washington Post. "I have a running war with the media."
Rather, during his interview with Fallon, said he is concerned about Trump's relationship with the press: "I've never seen anything like it, and neither has anybody else. We’ve never had anything even approaching this."
Over the course of his lifetime, Rather said, former-President Richard Nixon — who resigned in 1974 to avoid impeachment over the Watergate scandal — was the only president to offer tenuous parallels:
"The closest we've had was during the presidency of Richard Nixon. But even then, the president himself did not so often, did not so openly and so personally assault and attack not just the press as an institution, but individual press members as well. We've never had anything even approaching this at any time that I can remember. You look through history: It just hasn't happened."
And with his censure, Rather proffered a message to fellow journalists, telling them to "be relentless."
"First of all, stay steady, stay respectful," Rather advised. "But also be relentless and remain aggressive. That’s the proper role of the press."
"Our role as part of a system of checks and balances is to ask questions, keep on asking tough questions, do deep-digging, investigative reporting," he added.
His comments are in keeping with the journalist's public resistance to the hurried and dramatic changes seen under the new populist presidency.
An emerging social media savant, Rather has used such platforms to defend free press and push back against the Trump administration.
In a viral Facebook post Wednesday, he described the first 12 days of the Trump presidency as "disturbing, even scary."
And on Thursday, in anticipation of his Tonight Show interview, Rather lauded journalists and dissidents alike.
"I am so proud of the community we are creating and your passion for good journalism and civic engagement," he wrote. "I believe this is a pivotal moment in American history and your voice is being heard."
Watch the full segment here: