President Donald Trump unloaded on the “out of control” media Thursday during a press conference that ended up lasting more than 75 minutes.
The president made his anti-press comments in the wake of leaks suggesting members of his team had, according to a New York Times report, “repeated contacts” with Russian intelligence prior to his inauguration. That report followed the resignation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was reportedly untruthful about his communications with Russia in the weeks before Trump became president.
“The media’s trying to attack our administration because they know we are following through on the pledges that we made, and they’re not happy about it,” Trump told reporters gathered in the White House.
Trump told reporters Thursday that he was having fun during the combative press conference, though he later suggested the media would characterize his behavior as “ranting and raving.” He said the mainstream media’s “tone” in covering his administration has been one of “such hatred.”
“The public doesn’t believe you people anymore,” he charged.
While he answered some substantive questions throughout the lengthy presser, Trump’s bashing of the media was the main event.
“Many of our nation’s reporters and folks will not tell you the truth and will not treat you with the respect you deserve,” the president said.
“Much of the media in Washington, D.C., along with New York, Los Angeles, in particular, speaks for the special interests and for those profiting off the obviously very, very broken system,” he continued. “The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. The press is out of control, the live of dishonesty is out of control.”
The president briefly discussed naming Alexander Acosta, a law school dean and former federal prosecutor, as his new Labor secretary nominee following Andy Puzder’s decision Wednesday to withdraw himself from the nomination. “He has had a tremendous career,” Trump said of Acosta.
But Trump spent more time talking about Jim Acosta, CNN’s White House correspondent, than he did Alexander Acosta, who was presumably at least one of the reasons the press conference was held in the first place.
Trump said he “can handle a bad story better than anybody as long as it’s true,” but noted that he’s “not OK when it’s fake.” The president frequently accuses CNN of running “fake news,” and Thursday’s marathon presser was no exception.
“I mean, I watch CNN, it’s so much anger and hatred and just the hatred,” Trump said.
— Amy Mek (@AmyMek) February 16, 2017
When Jim Acosta was finally allowed to ask a question, he told the president: “Thank you very much, and just for the record, we don’t hate you. I don’t hate you.”
After Trump engaged in a back-and-forth with the CNN reporter, the president had this to say about the network’s coverage of his administration:
The tone is such hatred. I’m really not a bad person, by the way. No, but the tone is such — I do get good ratings; you have to admit that. The tone is such hatred. I watched this morning a couple of the networks, and I have to say, [Fox News’] “Fox & Friends” in the morning, they’re very honorable people. They’re very — not because they’re good, because they hit me also when I do something wrong. But they have the most honest morning show. That’s all I can say. It’s the most honest.
Trump also slammed the 10 p.m. hour of CNN, which is anchored by Don Lemon, saying the show has an “almost always exclusive anti-Trump” panel.
“The good news is he doesn’t have good ratings, but the panel is almost exclusive anti-Trump,” the president said. “And the hatred and venom coming from his mouth. The hatred coming from other people on your network.”
Toward the end of Jim Acosta’s encounter with Trump, the journalist asked the president if he feels his constant attacks on the media are “undermining” the First Amendment, which guarantees the freedom of the press.
“Aren’t you concerned, sir, that you are undermining the people’s faith in the First Amendment, freedom of the press, the press in this country, when you call stories you don’t like fake news?” Jim Acosta asked. “Why not just say it’s a story I don’t like?”
Trump told the CNN reporter that he understands what he saying, but said the press will often report badly on “something that should be positive.”
Look, I want to see an honest press. When I started off today by saying that it’s so important to the public to get an honest press,” Trump said. “[I]f you were straight, I would be your biggest booster. I would be your biggest fan in the world, including bad stories about me.”