Jefferson was a champion of the free press, but never considered freedom of speech as blanket protection for slander. Throughout his career, he struggled with the contradictory nature of politics and media.
“Yet I fear such a paper would find few subscribers. It is a melancholy truth, that a suppression of the press could not more completely deprive the nation of it’s benefits, than is done by it’s abandoned prostitution to falsehood…Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.”
The lack of truth in reporting brought out the melancholy streak that often plagued him.
“I deplore with you the putrid state into which our newspapers have passed, and the malignity, the vulgarity, and mendacious spirit of those who write for them…A truth now and then projecting into the ocean of newspaper lies, serves like head-lands to correct our course. Indeed, my skepticism as to everything I see in a newspaper, makes me indifferent whether I ever see one.”