Trump's Latest Twitter Strike At Media

Jul 2, 2017
Originally published on July 2, 2017 8:01 pm
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's been a tense couple of days between President Trump and the U.S. media, which escalated with a series of tweets over the weekend. Last night, President Trump took aim at the media again at an event honoring veterans in Washington, D.C.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The fake media tried to stop us from going to the White House, but I'm president and they're not.

MARTIN: Then this morning, he sent out a tweet featuring an old video clip that's been floating around the Internet. In it, he body slams an opponent, but in this clip, the CNN logo is superimposed on the man's head. CNN released a statement today criticizing the post, saying it encourages violence against the media. And the president's supporters say it's just a joke. We called NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik to hear a bit more about this. Hi, David. Thanks for joining us.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Of course.

MARTIN: So for people who haven't seen the video, could you tell us a little bit more about it?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, it's about - call it 28 seconds long, but really it's a repeated loop of a shot or a video of the president then as just Donald Trump the personality at a WWE, one of these professional and heavily staged wrestling events in which he's slamming a guy down. And literally you have this box logo recognizable in the red and white lettering of CNN superimposed on the guy's head, so he's basically slamming down a person in the figure of CNN to the floor. And just to make sure that everybody knew that it wasn't a mistake, the president retweeted it from his official POTUS account. So that will be part of the national record forever.

MARTIN: So this follows a week in which he took - he criticized in some rather personal terms these two MSNBC anchors, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. He was criticized even by Republicans for this. People said like - for example, Senator Susan Collins said, this is beneath the dignity of the office. Well, what should we infer from the fact that he's continuing with this?

FOLKENFLIK: I think he finds it useful to define an enemy and go after it, the press he wants to be his enemy. It's distracting us all and particularly him, it seems, from issues like ISIS, the North Koreans, the health care bill, questions about immigration. But he seems to feel that it's important to de-legitimize the press. I did ask one of the president's spokespersons, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, about what was intended by this. Was this a reflection of his record, of his intent toward the press in the future? We have not yet received a response.

MARTIN: There were administration officials who were on some of the Sunday morning talk shows. They seemed to suggest that they felt it was just a joke. You can see that a lot of the commenters who are responding to media reports about this are also saying the same thing, that this is just a joke. But The Washington Post and other news outlets are saying that they think that this encourages violence against the media. What do you say about this as a person who follows the media and watches this closely?

FOLKENFLIK: I think it's hard to disentangle this from the president's rhetorical onslaught and the administration's hostile stance towards the media and towards questions of transparency and accountability. The president not only tweeted about Mika Brzezinski in a very personal and somewhat sexist way last week, but he also tweeted about the Amazon-Washington Post that is - both are controlled by Jeff Bezos, although the Post as a personal matter, not a corporate one, clearly reflecting on some of the Post's reporting that it's done putting the president in a bad light.

And you can't disentangle it from the age we're in. He essentially urged a certain degree of physical hostility against reporters on the campaign trail. And further than that, you know, we've just had a congressman seated from Montana, endorsed by the president himself, who just days before the special election body slammed a reporter from The Guardian newspaper to the floor after asking him some complicated questions about the health care bill making its way in the House of Representatives.

The rhetorical body slam now is hard to disentangle from the real body slam we learned about. And the congressman acknowledged that his campaign had lied about that in the moment. You can't separate the two. And I think it means that we're in an age where you have somebody in the highest office of the land seemingly if not sanctioning, certainly saying this is appropriate rhetorically, and I'm fine with it when it happens in real life.

MARTIN: That's NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik speaking to us from New York. Thanks, David.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.