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Rep. Keith Ellison On Trump And The Media


We're going to hear now from Congressman Keith Ellison, a Democrat of Minnesota. He thinks Twitter should block President Trump's access to the medium because of how the president uses social media.

KEITH ELLISON: Twitter has standards of decorum. If you abuse people and insult them on Twitter, Twitter will eventually tell you that you have abused their service, and they don't want you to use it or at least suspend you. I can't think of anyone who's been more abusive than Donald Trump.

MARTIN: Although - what he's been saying, I mean, that's using social media to pressure people or just to flat out insult them. I mean...


MARTIN: ...insulting people on Twitter is not against Twitter's rules.

ELLISON: Yeah, but it depends on how you insult them, you know. And, you know, Twitter at least I think has set up standards of behavior. And bullying people, trolling them, you know, it at least should evoke a conversation, right? And if they say we've evaluated everything he said and he's clean, no problem, I'd be satisfied with that.

MARTIN: Although we can presume Twitter does heed the president's tweets everyday, and they - they've decided up until now or continuously decided that it's fine.

ELLISON: Is that, is that what they decided? Or had they decided that, you know, he's lucrative so we're just going to let them do what he does because he's making a lot of money? Look, I'm not saying that that's the case. I'm just saying I'd like for them to say something about it so that at least all of us can know whether or not there's one standard or whether there's a presidential standard, and everybody else has another standard.

MARTIN: As a member of the Democratic Party, which doesn't hold any of the levers of power in Washington right now...

ELLISON: True, that's right.

MARTIN: ...Isn't it to your advantage to get a window into the president's mind and thinking and an unfiltered look at his priorities and what's happening in the White House?

ELLISON: Rachel, let me tell you that it could well be to the political benefit of the Democratic Party to let Donald Trump be as rude insulting and nasty as he wants to be. And he has been rude insulting and nasty, but, is it good for the country? For example, his recent decision about transgender people. Obviously the only real and legitimate standard for service to our military is if you're physically and mentally able to serve. And yet based on what he said, will there be some people even a small part of our population that feels that they have been greenlighted to be a little crueler and meaner and more abusive to transgender people? They...

MARTIN: Although on that tweet about his decision to exclude transgender people from the U.S. military, there wasn't anything mean about it. He just...


MARTIN: ...Made it a policy...

ELLISON: The policy was mean...

MARTIN: ...He shouldn't have announced it on Twitter.

ELLISON: True. The policy was mean. The words were fairly neutral, but the policy was wrong.

MARTIN: So the president sees his use of Twitter as a way to go directly to the American people, and you see that as damaging.

ELLISON: Well, I see it in general as a good thing to foster communication from the government, but I think it can be used in a very bad way because what he's doing through his Twitter account and in other ways is circumventing the whole system to intimidate people, to pack courts, to intimidate the press. Also that he can just sort of run everything himself. And we fought a war of independence against somebody, King George, who was trying to do that. So this is really why I'm actually kind of concerned about his use of social media. Not the fact that he uses it, that's actually a good thing. But the way that he uses it I think is damaging to representative democracy.

MARTIN: Congressman Keith Ellison from the state of Minnesota. Thank you so much for coming in.

ELLISON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.