A Father’s Question for Trump: “Have You Even Read the Constitution?”

July 29, 2016 • Commentary
By Nat Hentoff and Nick Hentoff
This article appeared on Cato​.org on July 29, 2016.

Fox News’ prides itself on being “fair and balanced,” as reflected in its adoption of this phrase as its motto. When tested against its coverage of the last night of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), the use of the slogan strains credulity. The network’s coverage was so biased it could be considered an in‐​kind contribution to the Trump campaign.

Three of the night’s most memorable speeches, which aired live on both CNN and MSNBC, were preempted on Fox News either by commercials or interviews with Trump supporters. In doing this, Fox News did an incredible disservice to its viewers.

They included the speech of Medal of Honor recipient Florent Groberg, a retired Army captain who tackled a suicide bomber, which was preempted on Fox by an interview with a woman featured in a new NRA commercial. A powerful speech by U.S. Marine Corps General John Allen, in which he condemned Trump’s calls to torture suspected terrorists, was interrupted by Fox for an interview with General Michael Flynn, who has backed Trump on torture. Flynn criticized Allen, whose still‐​unfinished speech was broadcast silently in the background.

But the most memorable speech ignored by Fox News was the moving testimony of Khizr M. Khan, whose Muslim son was killed while serving as a U.S. soldier in Iraq. Capt. Humayun Khan was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star for saving the lives of his men when he advanced forward toward an explosives‐​laden vehicle driven by a suicide bomber.

Mr. Khan, who immigrated to America with his family from the United Arab Emirates, boldly challenged Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on Muslims with his hijab‐​wearing wife standing by his side.

Over the past year, Trump has called for mass surveillance of Muslims in America. In November, Trump said he would “seriously consider” closing mosques in response to the terrorist attacks in Paris last year. The next day he said the United States would have “absolutely no choice” but to close down mosques where “some bad things are happening.” Trump has also proposed a complete ban on Muslims entering the U.S.

On June 28, Time magazine reported that Trump had refused to clarify recent statements that appeared inconsistent with his earlier positions. When asked last month if the Trump campaign would soften his stance on the Muslim ban, “Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks told Time, ‘This is not accurate.’ ” When the Associated Press asked Trump to clarify how he would identify Muslims, Trump told the AP reporter via email: “You figure it out!”

“Hillary Clinton was right when she called my son ‘the best of America,’ ” Mr. Khan said at the DNC. “If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America.

“Donald Trump, you are asking Americans to trust you with our future,” Khan continued, addressing Trump directly. “Let me ask you: Have you even read the United States Constitution?”

Khan looked straight into the camera as he reached into his breast pocket and produced a small copy of the Constitution, holding it high.

“I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law.’

“Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery?” Khan asked Trump. “Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America — you will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities.

“You have sacrificed nothing, and no one,” he added.

Instead of broadcasting Mr. Khan’s speech live, Fox News aired a commercial attacking Hillary Clinton on Benghazi.

Mr. Khan’s speech is particularly powerful when contrasted with Trump’s 1997 appearance on the Howard Stern Show, where he compared his sexual promiscuity during the 1970s with others’ service in the Vietnam War. Trump avoided serving in Vietnam with repeated student deferments from the draft.

“It is a dangerous world out there,” Trump told Stern, after being congratulated for having avoided contracting a sexually transmitted disease. “It’s scary, like Vietnam … It is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave soldier.”

Someone needs to ask Trump Mr. Khan’s question directly: Has he even read the Constitution? So far, he has given no indication that he has.

Earlier this month, when asked during a meeting with House Republicans whether he supports the powers of Congress enumerated in Article I of the Constitution, Trump responded that he supports the entire Constitution, including Article XII. The Constitution only has seven articles. Trump has an obligation to prove to voters that he not only has read the Constitution, but that he understands and is willing to follow the Constitution as the supreme law of the U.S.

Presidential debates are routinely devoted to single subjects, such as national defense or the economy. Yet presidential candidates are rarely forced to answer questions about their understanding of the Constitution.

Which is why we call on the Commission on Presidential Debates to devote one of its debates this fall solely to questions that challenge the candidates’ constitutional literacy. The future of our freedoms may very well depend on their answers.

About the Authors
Nat Hentoff is a nationally renowned authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights. He is a member of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the Cato Institute, where he is a senior fellow. Nick Hentoff is a criminal defense and civil liberties attorney in New York.