Trump Ramps Up Media Feud With ‘CNN’ Twitter Wrestling VideoBy
CNN responds by criticizing president for ‘juvenile behavior’
Trump assails free press at pre-Independence Day rally
President Donald Trump ratcheted up his feud with the media on Sunday when he posted a video on Twitter depicting himself body-slamming and choking a person whose head had been digitally replaced by the logo of news network CNN.
“It is a sad day when the President of the United States encourages violence against reporters,” CNN said in a statement. The president is “involved in juvenile behavior far below the dignity of his office. We will keep doing our jobs. He should start doing his.”
Lawmakers, mostly Democrats, also condemned Trump’s message, which several called an assault on press freedoms.
The 28-second video, adapted from a 2007 World Wrestling Entertainment event that Trump participated in, showed him taking down a man with CNN’s logo superimposed over the man’s face. The tweet also carried the hashtags #FraudNewsCNN and #FNN.
Trump posted the video to his 33 million personal Twitter followers, hours after lambasting the media during an appearance in Washington meant to celebrate the upcoming Independence Day holiday. The message was retweeted some 200,000 times, and also cross-posted to Trump’s official @POTUS account.
Although the White House had no official response, Trump’s homeland security adviser said the video wasn’t meant as a threat. “No one would perceive that as a threat. I hope they don’t,” Thomas Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security, said of Trump’s post in an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.”
The president has kept up a steady attack on certain journalists and media outlets. He used a speech Saturday night at Washington’s Kennedy Center to attack the free press as “fake” for coverage that’s critical of him, saying, “the fake media tried to stop us from going to the White House, but I’m president and they’re not.”
The latest comments follow days of Trump feuding on social media with MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. Trump’s swipes at Brzezinski’s physical appearance and mental state prompted several Republicans in Congress to call the tweets inappropriate and un-presidential.
“My use of social media is not Presidential - it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL,” Trump, 71, responded on Saturday.
Trump’s tweet came weeks after Representative Stephen Scalise was almost killed by a gunman in Virginia during a baseball practice for Republican lawmakers. That shooting, by an Illinois man angry about Trump’s election, led to a call for more civility in politics on both sides of the political aisle.
‘Beneath the Office’
At a press conference last week, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president “in no way, form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence.”
Because journalists are the public’s check on power, “when the president attacks the press, he attacks the people,” the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a non-profit that advocates First Amendment rights, said in a statement.
“We condemn the president’s threat of physical violence against journalists,” said Bruce Brown, the group’s executive director. “This tweet is beneath the office of the presidency. Sadly, it is not beneath this president.”
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Twitter that “violence & violent imagery to bully the press must be rejected.” Representative Adam Schiff of California wondered of Trump, “where will his downward spiral take us?” And Representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas said Trump’s tweet as an “outrageous new low” in suppressing the press.
Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” warned against attempts to “weaponize distrust” of the media. “The First Amendment is the beating heart of the American experiment. And you don’t get to separate the freedoms that are in there,” said Sasse, a frequent critic of Trump.
Trump lashed out at the media as a candidate and continued after the election, including branding the press the “enemy of the American people.” During his campaign rallies, reporters were often held in small pens and subject to verbal abuse by Trump supporters.
In May, Greg Gianforte, then a Republican candidate, body-slammed a reporter who was attempting to interview him a day before a special election. Gianforte, who was elected to House of Representatives from Montana, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and was sentenced to community service and anger-management classes.
— With assistance by Mark Niquette, Margaret Talev, and Elizabeth Dexheimer