President Trump’s combative relationship with the media deteriorated further Wednesday with a news conference where he called some reporters rude and accused a PBS reporter of posing a racist question when she asked him about white nationalists.
“It’s such a hostile media,” Trump said during his post-midterms news conference at the White House, after ordering reporter April Ryan of the American Urban Radio Networks to sit down when she tried to ask him a question.
The president complained that the media did not cover the humming economy and was responsible for much of the country’s divided politics. He said that “I can do something fantastic, and they make it look not good.”
His exchanges with CNN’s Jim Acosta and NBC News’ Peter Garrett turned bitterly personal, unusual even for a forum where the nature of their jobs often put presidents and the press at odds.
“I came in here as a nice person wanting to answer questions and I had people jumping out of their seats screaming questions at me,” said Trump, who talked for nearly 90 minutes despite the run-ins with reporters.
Acosta and Trump began sparring after the CNN White House correspondent asked him about why a so-called caravan of migrants heading from Latin America to the southern U.S. border was emphasized as an issue in the just-concluded midterm races. Acosta questioned Trump calling the migrants march an invasion and Trump defended the term.
“You should let me run the country,” Trump said. “You run CNN and if you did it well, your ratings would be much better.”
When Acosta pressed on with another question, Trump said “that’s enough!” and a White House aide unsuccessfully tried to grab the microphone from Acosta.
After Acosta asked about the investigation of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election and Trump tried to turn to Garrett.
“CNN should be ashamed of itself having you work for them,” the president said. “You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN. The way you treat Sarah Sanders is horrible. The way you treat other people is horrible. You shouldn’t treat people that way.”
Garrett came to his colleague’s defense. “I’ve traveled with him and watched him,” Garrett said. “He’s a diligent reporter who busts his butt like the rest of us.”
“I’m not a big fan of yours, either,” Trump replied.
“I understand,” Garrett said, attempting to ask a question. At that point, Acosta stood back up and began mentioning, without a microphone, the explosive devices that were recently sent to CNN and some of the president’s political opponents.
“Just sit down,” Trump said. “When you report fake news, which CNN does a lot, you are the enemy of the people.”
CNN, through its public relations department Twitter feed, said that Trump’s attacks on the press have gone too far.
“They are not only dangerous, they are disturbingly un-American,” CNN said. “While President Trump has made it clear he does not respect a free press, he has a sworn obligation to protect it. A free press is vital to democracy, and we stand behind Jim Acosta and his fellow journalists everywhere.”
Trump made several references in his news conference to how he feels mistreated by the press. He said he’s damned by the press for having either too few, too many or just the right amount of press availabilities.
He turned specifically on reporter Yamiche Alcindor of PBS’ “NewsHour.” She said that “on the campaign trail, you called yourself a nationalist. Some people saw that as emboldening white nationalists…” Trump interrupted her, calling it a racist question. Alcindor pressed on. “There are some people who say the Republican Party is seen as supporting white nationalists because of your rhetoric. What do you say to that?”
Trump talked about his supposed popularity with black Americans, and said he’s more interested in advancing America’s interests than having a globalist point of view.
“To say that, what you said, is so insulting to me,” he said. “It’s a very terrible thing you said to me.”
Alcindor moved on to a different topic. Later, via Twitter, she said that she has interviewed white nationalists who say they are more excited by Trump than they have been about other presidents. “Even if President Trump doesn’t intend it, some see him as directly appealing to the racists,” she wrote.
On CNN, anchor Jake Tapper said that there was nothing racist about her question and that Trump’s reaction was unfathomable.
Trump told Ryan repeatedly to sit down when she attempted to ask Trump about charges of voter suppression. He said she was rude for interrupting another reporter, although he did briefly answer one of Ryan’s questions.