Rep. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, expressed his support for the newsprint industry after writing to the U.S. International Trade Commission on Aug. 23 to stop the White House administering newsprint tariffs on Canada, a major import source for newspapers in the United States.
The unanimous decision by the five-member commission on Wednesday overturned the Trump administration decision to impose tariffs on Canadian newsprint in effect since January, relieving small- and medium-size newspapers nationwide that have struggled to absorb the cost of higher newsprint and have made staff cuts as a result.
Prior to the decision, Knight and Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Santa Cruz, urged the commission to stop the tariffs before the decision, writing that they would impose excessive costs and hurt print journalism jobs.
Knight said he wanted to ensure local newspapers could continue to survive.
“I think the importance comes in when we’re making sure we have the ability to put information in the press and be open, and have those abilities to go out in the communities,” he said on Thursday. “I buy into the fact that our country is built on these freedoms of the press, and that we should protect these freedoms. The people do have a right to know what’s going on in the world.”
Knight’s challenger in the 25th Congressional District Race, Katie Hill, agreed.
“Having a robust press that holds our officials accountable is of the utmost importance,” she said. “I think tariffs would have been detrimental to that, and I’m glad the ITC halted this imposition. We need a free press to maintain a free democracy for all.”
Hill said she supports the existence of the free press, but believes standing up for it is “the bare minimum.”
“Actions speak louder than words in that regard,” she said. “What I’d like to see is Steve Knight breaking with Trump openly. If you truly believe the free press is not the enemy of the people, then when Trump says he does, Knight should stay up and say, ‘No, this isn’t true. This isn’t who we are and I support the press because of these reasons. It’s having the courage of standing up publicly.’ ”
Knight said he didn’t believe his support of the newsprint industry was relevant to his opinion of President Trump’s recent criticism of journalists he believed were spreading false information.
“I get a lot of questions, all the time, that ask, ‘Are you disagreeing with the president?’ when I speak on this issue,” he said. “I don’t get up in the morning to think what I do or don’t agree with the president on. As a representative, my team and I decide and look at the issues, and we decide what is best for our community and we move and go down that direction. I don’t base it on the president.”
The Commerce Department imposed tariffs as high as 20 percent on newsprint from Canada after North Pacific Paper Co., a paper mill in the state of Washington, filed a complaint alleging that subsidies the Canadian government provides to its manufacturers put American paper companies at a disadvantage.