Editor’s Note: This article stems from an interview by Hannah Koford with Rep. Rob Bishop on June 12, 2020. Bishop is currently representing Utah’s 1st District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He has announced that he is not seeking re-election to Congress in 2020, and instead he is running for Utah Lt. Governor. The Republican Primary for that race was held on June 30, 2020.
Hannah Koford: Congressman Rob Bishop’s resume is a long list of impressive achievements in public service. His career in policy-making has taken him everywhere from the state legislature to a ninth term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Now he is prepared to leave behind the House chambers for the role of lieutenant governor with gubernatorial candidate Thomas Wright.
As we talked about the importance of free press, he explained the difference between rights that are bereft and unconditional and those that are not.
Rob Bishop: So, like freedom of speech, that’s pretty bereft. Freedom of the press though and like freedom of a speedy trial or the right to a speedy trial is contingent upon other factors; like you have to have a court system and you have prison systems. You have to have lawyers. The freedom of the press is also conditional. The freedom of the press works for those that actually have some way and some mechanism of having a press; of being able to distribute information. So it’s not just an absolute. There are conditions upon it. And the purpose of the government is to make sure there are no inhibitions to those auxiliary efforts that are necessary in order to actually reach that level of freedom of the press.
Koford: Congressman Bishop outlined one of the main actions the state of Utah takes to guarantee that free press is possible notwithstanding conditions. He spoke of tax breaks given to print media.
Bishop: Now as the kind of press changes that also will change. So in the future as more and more of the press becomes digital obviously how we handle internet and the kinds of guarantees we make, we have to make sure the internet is free for people to come in and to accurately work there without over extensive federal or state regulations.
Koford: When asked about the greatest threats to freedom of the press, Congressman Bishop replied, “I think we are past that.” To him the greatest threat had been the attempts at monopolization during times in history when whomever controlled the print media also controlled the news in its entirety.
Bishop: As the media, the press media, has declined and as cable television has exploded, there are all sorts of other options to get points of view. And as the internet has exploded now you have all sorts of other options to get points of view out there. And no longer does the press think it has to be the spokesman for people. But now the press picks specific points of view and allows the people to access different points of view to get different ideas. I think that’s the best protection. There are multiple approaches to it and no longer do we actually think that media has to be an omnipresent spokesman or that it can’t have purposes. The media can have different roles and different audiences. And that’s better.
Koford: In light of his joint gubernatorial candidacy with Thomas Wright, I asked what actions they were prepared to take to protect freedom of the press.
Bishop: Well once again, the tax policy; obviously tax policy should not restrict the media or the press’s opportunity to present their information. And if there are any on the federal level or the state level, they need to ensure that the internet is available to express as many ideas as possible. That’s something that the state needs to make sure that we guarantee.
There’s also a mindset concept that comes here. That the press needs to have access to information in order to fulfill its function. And if fish and cater have an innate bias — I guess the media and a lot of political actors have that — to try to be open and forthright with them.
Koford: Elaborating on the “mindset” aspect of their treatment of the press, Congressman Bishop spoke to some of his experiences and relationships with journalists.
Bishop: Look I have to admit that one never assumes that the media is your friend and they are not gonna cover you. Although, I’ve had a lot of friends within the media that in my years have actually done that for me. They used to know that I was sarcastic most of the time and would just pass stock and wouldn’t wouldn’t present what I was actually saying. They knew I didn’t mean it. But at the same time I have people especially in Washington now that I trust and that I can be very open with.
Having that open ability and having a basic trust in the media is important and especially in reporters, or those, well we call them all reporters, journalists, reporters, whatever. As long as they are not abusing that privilege, making sure that they have open access is the most significant thing that can take place. And you can’t do that by statute, that has to be a mindset.
Koford: Thomas Wright and Rob Bishop are competing in the Republican primary election on Tuesday, June 30th. The other candidates are as follows: Spencer Cox and Deidre Henderson, Greg Hughes and Victor Iverson, and John Huntsman Jr. and Michelle Kaufusi.