Trump Again Calls Media ‘Enemy of the People’
President Trump turned his speech before a conservative convention into a full-throated attack on journalism Friday, saying some reporters make up unnamed sources for “fake news” and again describing them as “the enemy” of the American people.
“A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are — they are the enemy of the people,” Trump told the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.
While praising some reporters as honest, and pledging fealty to the First Amendment, Trump claimed that “the fake news media doesn’t tell the truth.” He said reporters should not be allowed to use anonymous sources, and “we’re going to do something about it.”
The president did not elaborate on what that “something” might be, beyond general criticism.
It was the latest in a series of attacks that, critics said, are designed to undermine coverage of Trump’s troubles in office, including investigations into possible links between his campaign associates and Russians during last year’s presidential election.
The sustained attacks show “how worried he is about the repeated reports of chaos, incompetence, and potential wrongdoing inside his administration,” said Matthew Miller, a spokesman for President Barack Obama’s Justice Department. “His problem, though, is with the facts, not the media, and he’s only making his problem worse the more he runs away from it.”
In his speech to the annual gathering of conservative activists known as CPAC, Trump also thanked them for their support and touted an agenda that includes tax cuts, regulatory rollbacks, a military build-up, a still-to-be-defined replacement for Obama’s health care law, and “border security” that includes travel restrictions from Muslim countries and a proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Our victory was a win for everyone who believes it’s time to stand up for America, to stand up for the American worker and to stand up for the American flag,” Trump said.
The crowd also lapped up his attacks on the media, which came on the same day that he and aides disputed a CNN story that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus spoke to the FBI about media reports on the investigation into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election.
In assailing anonymous sources and so-called “fake news,” Trump discussed specific stories and news organizations in general terms, at one point describing CNN as the “Clinton News Network.”
The White House also deploys anonymity from time to time. Less than two hours before Trump criticized the use of anonymous sources and said all sources should be named, an administration official provided a briefing on condition he not be identified.
Some analysts said Trump’s constant attacks on the press are designed to undermine the public’s faith in institutions in general and the media in particular, as well as to generate doubt about negative stories regarding the administration.
Liz Mair, a Republican consultant involved in a “Never Trump” campaign last year, said attacking the media at a forum like the Conservative Political Action Conference is the easiest way for Trump to unite conservatives who might otherwise oppose him over issues like entitlement spending, free trade, and limited government.
“CPAC has been trying to normalize Trump as a ‘conservative’ for years now, but the fact is, Trump continues to have precious little in common, philosophically, with Burke, Kirk, Reagan, Goldwater or Thatcher,” Mair said.
William McRaven, the retired admiral who planned the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, said this week that Trump’s attacks on the media may also be undermining democracy itself.
“The president said the news media is the enemy of the American people,” McRaven, now chancellor of the University of Texas system, said in a speech. “This sentiment may be the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime.”
Trump first made the “enemy” claim in a tweet a week ago, and he criticized coverage of that incident during his remarks Friday at CPAC.
“In covering my comments, the dishonest media did not explain that I called the ‘fake news’ the enemy of the people,” he said. “The ‘fake news.’ They dropped off the word ‘fake.’ And all of a sudden the story became the media is the enemy.”
In that Feb. 17 tweet, Trump said: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
Trump said he is not “against the media,” and “there are some great reporters around,” but there are also “terrible, dishonest people” in the business.
“I love the First Amendment — nobody loves it better than me,” Trump said at one point. “Nobody — I mean, who use its more than I do?”
(h/t USA Today)