President Donald Trump took his self-declared war against the media in general, and CNN in particular, to a disturbingly childish place on Sunday morning as he tweeted a video showing him body-slamming, choking, and just generally beating up someone with the CNN logo superimposed on his head. The video was a crude edit from a 2007 Trump appearance at a World Wrestling Entertainment event and it had been recently posted on infamous pro-Trump subreddit The Donald. The person whose face is covered by the CNN logo in the edited video is WWE Chairman Vince McMahon (his wife, Linda, is head of the Small Business Administration).
Trump posted the video a day after he went on tweetstorm against several media outlets with a particular focus on CNN and vowed that he would not stop tweeting, calling it “modern day presidential.” And he appeared to be making good on that characterization by retweeting the video from his official @POTUS account. With that message, and the edited video, the commander in chief appears to be sending a clear message that he won’t accept any guidelines on what the president can or cannot tweet from his accounts. After all, the video comes mere days after Trump was roundly criticized for his misogynist tweets against Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski.
CNN quickly released a statement saying the video greenlights violence against the press:
It is a sad day when the President of the United States encourages violence against reporters. Clearly, Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied when she said the President had never done so. Instead of preparing for his overseas trip, his first meeting with Vladimir Putin, dealing with North Korea and working on his health care bill, he is involved in juvenile behavior far below the dignity of his office. We will keep doing our jobs. He should start doing his.
The news channel’s reference to Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s deputy press secretary, relates to a statement she made earlier in the week. “The president in no way form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence," Huckabee Sanders said during a press conference Thursday. “If anything, quite the contrary.”
Journalism advocacy groups also joined in on the criticism. “We condemn the president's threat of physical violence against journalists,” the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said. “This tweet is beneath the office of the presidency. Sadly, it is not beneath this president.” CNN contributor Ana Navarro went further and said that Trump “is going to get somebody killed in the media. Maybe that will stop him.”
Homeland Security Adviser Thomas Bossert pushed back against the accusations, saying that the video showing Trump choking the representation of CNN could never be construed as a threat. “No one would perceive that as a threat. I hope they don’t. I do think that [Trump is] beaten up in a way on cable platforms that he has a right to respond to,” Bossert said on ABC’s This Week.
Trump posted the video hours after he turned a speech Saturday night at an event in Washington’s Kennedy Center to honor veterans into a full-throated attack against the media. “The fake media is trying to silence us, but we will not let them,” he said. “The fake media tried to stop us from going to the White House. But I'm president, and they're not.”