President Trump posted a short video to his Twitter account Sunday in which he is portrayed wrestling and punching a figure whose head has been replaced by the logo for CNN.
The video, about 28 seconds long, appears to be an edited clip from a years-old appearance by Trump in WrestleMania, an annual professional wrestling event. The clip ends with an on-screen restyling of the CNN logo as “FNN: Fraud News Network.”
Cartoonish in quality, the video is an unorthodox way for a sitting president to express himself. But Trump has ratcheted up his attacks on the media in recent days — assailing CNN and crudely insulting the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” — while defending his use of social media as “modern day presidential.”
In a speech Saturday at a faith rally in Washington, Trump was met with cheers when he referred to CNN as “garbage journalism” and said: “The fake media tried to stop us from going to the White House. But I’m president, and they’re not.”
The wrestling video stirred criticism, disbelief, and dumbfoundedness. Some journalists denounced its portrayal of violence as dangerous, saying it could incite attacks or threats against media employees.
“I think it is unseemly that the president would attack journalists for doing their jobs, and encourage such anger at the media,” said Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times.
The administration did not respond to a request for comment. Trump’s homeland security adviser, Thomas Bossert, defended the video when he viewed it for the first time during a broadcast interview with Martha Raddatz of ABC News. “No one would perceive that as a threat,” Bossert said. “I hope they don’t.”
“He’s a genuine president expressing himself genuinely,” Bossert added.
CNN criticized Trump for posting the video. “It is a sad day when the president of the United States encourages violence against reporters,” the network said in a statement.
“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,’’ the statement said. “We will keep doing our jobs. He should start doing his.’’
Asked about the video on ABC, Governor John Kasich, Republican of Ohio, said he hoped Trump’s family would talk to him and say, ‘‘Knock it off.’’ He added, “the coarseness doesn’t help anybody.’’
Rallies for and against Trump were held in several cities Sunday.
Demonstrators hoisting signs and chanting anti-Trump slogans marched through downtown Los Angeles to urge Congress to impeach the president. Organizers said they believe the president has violated the Constitution and obstructed justice. A smaller group of Trump backers rallied outside the police headquarters.
Supporters and opponents clashed in Austin, Texas, at a march by a group calling for impeachment.
A version of Trump’s video appeared last week on a Trump-dedicated page on the message board site Reddit, a popular meeting ground for Trump supporters.
The CNN logo is superimposed on what appears to be the head of Vince McMahon, a wrestling magnate and a friend of Trump, who in his prepresidential years often appeared as a guest on wrestling shows.
Trump’s fans on Reddit were exuberant about what they viewed as validation from the country’s most powerful man. “I love this,” wrote a user identified as American_Crusader. “You know he saw it, chuckled, and knew he could control the media narrative for days by hitting the ‘post’ button. So he did.”
The president’s allies say his attacks on the media are justified, arguing that the president is merely defending himself from coverage that his supporters view as biased. Trump’s war of words with CNN is especially popular with his voter base.
Media advocates, however, have raised alarms about a recent spate of arrests and assaults on working journalists, including a high-profile episode in which a Montana congressional candidate, Greg Gianforte, assaulted a reporter for The Guardian, breaking his glasses. Gianforte, who won a House seat, later apologized to the reporter.
Bruce Brown, the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, condemned the wrestling video as a ‘‘threat of physical violence against journalists.’’
“Targeting individual journalists or media outlets, on-or off-line, creates a chilling effect and fosters an environment where further harassment, or even physical attack, is deemed acceptable,” said Courtney Radsch, the advocacy director for the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Trump posted the wrestling tweet just as prominent Republicans began appearing on the major Sunday news programs.
On CNN, Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, accused the president of “weaponizing distrust” toward the media.
But Tom Price, the health and human services secretary, bristled when asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” about Trump’s antimedia remarks. “This is really remarkable,” Price said. “Your program — a program with the incredible history of ‘Meet the Press’ — and that’s what you want to talk about?”