During his press conference Friday morning with British Prime Minister Theresa May, President Trump was very much himself, if a little more pissed off, since his trip to visit America’s special friend across the pond is going very, very poorly. So he fell back on a tried and true tactic: attacking the media.
The drama began after Trump was asked about a wildly damaging interview he did with the UK newspaper the Sun—which, interestingly enough, is owned by Trump’s old buddy Rupert Murdoch—in which he was quoted saying “I actually told Theresa May how to do [Brexit], but she didn’t agree. She didn’t listen to me” before going on to say that May’s version of Brexit could “kill” any future U.S.-UK trade relations.
It was a doozy! But Trump, in his way, insisted he hadn’t said those things at all, calling the Sun’s story “fake news” and suggesting that the White House may release a recording of the interview to dispute the quotes. (For its part, the paper had already published audio of the interview which absolutely supports its accounting of what Trump said.)
“I said tremendous things. Fortunately, we tend to record stories now so we have it for your enjoyment if you would like it. We record when we deal with reporters. It’s called fake news and we solve a lot of problems with the good old reporting instrument,” Trump continued.
Then, NBC’s Kristin Welker, who earlier asked if Trump was giving Vladimir Putin the “upper hand” by attacking NATO allies ahead of their upcoming meeting.
Trump didn’t take kindly to that suggestion, firing back: “See, that’s such dishonest reporting, because, of course it happens to be NBC, which is possibly worse than CNN.”
And here’s when CNN’s Jim Acosta, who never seems to be far away when there’s a FREE PRESS MOMENT between a reporter and a member of the administration, tried to ask Trump a question. He even included the words, “since you attacked CNN.” Trump had all the ingredients needed for his very own lemonade.
“CNN’s fake news. I don’t take questions from CNN,” Trump said in a low voice.
Trump was then all too happy to take a question from “a real network,” and called on John Roberts, a reporter from Fox News, which is far and away the president’s favorite way to melt his brain to every morning.
Roberts proceeded with his question, but not before he’d prostrated himself with a gracious, “Thank you, Mr. President.”
The president knew what he was doing here: throwing bloodied red meat to the MAGA chuds who wouldn’t dream of watching CNN in the first place, and whipping professional journalists into a goddamn tizzy trying to defend themselves, inadvertently emphasizing the rift between the media class and Normal People even more.
Right on cue, everyone lost their damn minds:
The White House Correspondents’ Association, always one to jump on the bandwagon when a consensus emerges, also tepidly entered the fray:
And, of course, plenty also attacked Roberts in particular for not using his opening to Take A Stand on behalf of his maligned colleagues.
To this I say: of course Roberts didn’t stick his neck out! He works for Fox News, which is doing big business under this administration! This is the same network that puts Sean Hannity on the air every night to spin wild conspiracy theories and gave Megyn Kelly her start doing Santa-themed racism!
Roberts eventually responded to the frenzy by releasing a lukewarm statement that said he “paused” while the exchange played out before asking his question, just like everyone else did! He also heartily praised Welker as a “friend” and “as honest as the day is long” on the air, and conceded that CNN had some decent employees, but didn’t mention Acosta by name.
This didn’t satisfy one of CNN’s communications staffers:
I really don’t know how many more ways to say this: Appealing to the other side with the expectation that they’ll go to bat for you when the time is right is a fool’s errand. We’re dealing with fundamentally bad actors. There is no good argument, no matter how eloquently crafted as an appeal to dual pillars of Reason and Civility, that will effectively disarm propagandists or fools crying “fake news.” And if you attempt to engage with this paper tiger (a stand-in for hating liberal elites and the media that holds them up) in good faith, you’ll come away crazed and lost every time.