CNN’s Jake Tapper opined on several topics during an interview on Day 1 of SXSW in Austin, but he really let loose when talk inevitably turned to President Donald Trump and his nascent administration.
“It’s a difficult environment when the commander in chief of the country — I’d say, ‘Leader of the Free World,’ but I think that’s Angela Merkel now — hears anything he doesn’t like and calls it, ‘fake news,’” said Tapper during an onstage discussion moderated by MTV News/Wonkette’s Ana Marie Cox. “I call ‘fake news’ three recent things: When Trump said nobody in his campaign spoke to Russia, and they did; when Michael Flynn said he didn’t have contact with the Russians, and he did; and now our Attorney General said he didn’t speak to the Russians. … The White House wants to delegitimize any checks and balances.”
Tapper, who’s been a favorite piñata of the alt-right in recent weeks, compared Trump’s statements on “fake news” to that of his own 7-year-old son. He said the boy will notice when he’s not in a good mood and will react by using an exaggerated hand gesture and screaming, “Fake news!” Said Tapper with an underlying condemnation of the president’s maturity level, “Except, my 7-year-old knows it’s a ridiculous, childish thing.”
Tapper also took issue with the administration’s jobs report today. Trump had dismissed mostly good economic news during the campaign as “lies” but embraced today’s report that more than 250K jobs were created in February, quoting with laughter Sean Spicer’s response to a question about whether the president accepts the official statistics today: “They may have been phony in the past, but they aren’t now.”
Tapper said that, after moderating a debate with GOP hopefuls, he knew who would win. He said Trump’s opponents were soft on him when he asked a pointed question and that spelled out who would ultimately triumph to lead the party’s ticket in the general election.
“When asked in the debates if the other Republicans had concern if Trump had the nuclear codes, Carly Fiorina and Jeb Bush [demurred]. I knew then he’d be the nominee. They couldn’t deal with an Alpha.”
Beyond many instances citing what he sees as Trump and his administration’s personal toying of truth, Tapper gave kudos to some members of the press for holding POTUS to account. But also said there are other journalists who are acquiescing by not holding Trump accountable for his statements.
“What bothers me are journalists who are not rising to the occasion,” Tapper said. “I won’t mention names, but there are some who are keeping their heads down and are [essentially] saying it’s OK to make fun of the disabled [for instance]. These are things I never thought I’d have to say.”
Tapper added that he has “never seen it more tense in Washington” than now, but the one thing that unites Republicans on the Hill are Trump’s attacks on the press. “The press is in a much more adversarial place than ever,” the CNN anchor said. “And you know what? I hope we stay that way now and in the next administration because that’s where we are supposed to be.”
As for that previous administration, Tapper seemed to surprise some in the crowded Ballroom D at the Austin Convention Center when he said that he thought the former POTUS had little fondness for him, saying he had been a challenge for them as well.
“I don’t think President Obama likes me,” Tapper said. “I think he thinks I am a pain in the ass.”
While Trump rails against Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of him on Saturday Night Live, Tapper is mostly pleased with how he comes off in Beck Bennett’s portrayal of him on the show. “I feel very, very lucky,” he said. “The way they have gone after Spicer… I have a handsome guy — I feel like I dodged a bullet. Though that last skit — I don’t know about that…”
He’s talking about last Saturday’s skit in which Kate McKinnon’s Kellyanne Conway stalks Bennett’s Tapper. Watch it below.