The self-proclaimed “least anti-Semitic person you’ve ever seen,” who is also the “least racist person,” who is also the president of the United States, held a press conference on Thursday to inform the media that they are “fake news” and that their dishonesty is “out of control.”
“Many of our nation’s reporters and folks will not tell you the truth and will not treat the wonderful people of our country with the respect they deserve,” President Trump said at the outset of the briefing, whose ostensible purpose was to announce his new pick for secretary of labor. (It’s R. Alexander Acosta.) For that reason, he said, he felt it was necessary to address the American people directly.
What followed was a stunning display of Trump’s ability to lie, exaggerate, obfuscate, and mislead the public while insisting that it was actually the media who were doing all of those things.
Over the next hour and 15 minutes, Trump proceeded to berate the press for negative coverage of his administration, shout down reporters who asked questions that he deemed unfriendly, dismiss evidence that his campaign aides had contact with Russia as “fake news,” defend WikiLeaks while calling for a crackdown on leakers in his own White House, and complain that the country he inherited was “a mess.” He also lamented that “drugs are becoming cheaper than candy bars,” spouted a deeply misleading statistic about the federal court that blocked his immigration ban, maintained that the ban had a “very smooth rollout,” and falsely claimed that he had won the Electoral College by a larger margin than any president since Reagan. In response to a question from an Orthodox Jewish reporter about a wave of anti-Semitic attacks, Trump cut the reporter off, told him to sit down and be quiet, and called him a liar, while declaring himself “the least anti-Semitic person you have ever seen in your entire life.” Trump added that he is also “the least racist person.”
At the same time, Trump waved away the well-documented dishonesty of his own national security adviser, Michael Flynn, which led to Flynn’s resignation. Flynn “did nothing wrong” by calling Russia’s ambassador to discuss U.S. sanctions while Barack Obama was still president, Trump said. Rather, Trump has repeatedly blamed “the fake media” for treating Flynn “very, very unfairly.”
It’s the media’s dishonesty, Trump insisted again Thursday, that’s the real story here. Asked by CNN’s Jim Acosta how, if the leaks about his aides’ Russian contacts are real, Trump could call them “fake news,” Trump offered no evidence. But he reiterated that “the reporting is fake” and said he didn’t appreciate the negative tone of CNN’s coverage. “You know the word tone?’” he asked sarcastically. “I mean, it’s story after story after story is bad,” Trump said. “I won. I won.” Trump also objected to the use of the word chaos by someone on CNN to characterize the early days of his administration. “There’s zero chaos,” he said. “We are running, this is a fine-tuned machine.” His chief of staff Reince Priebus, Trump added, spends half his time “putting out lies by the press.” (The full exchange is here.)
Yet it was Trump who was caught in a blatant falsehood Thursday, when NBC’s Peter Alexander challenged him on his claim that his electoral-college victory was the largest since Reagan’s. And once again, his response revealed that he is only outraged by perceived falsehoods when they come from the media. You can watch his shoulder-shrugging, mealy-mouthed dismissal below.
Got that, American people? Straight from the president’s mouth. When Trump or his advisers say things that aren’t true, it’s not their fault; the real villains are the media who report on it.
“The public just doesn’t trust you people anymore,” Trump lectured CNN’s Acosta at one point on Thursday. Perhaps, but it wasn’t the “dishonest media” who mangled the truth Thursday. It was the dishonest man on the other side of the podium.