Update, with Twitter’s response to CNN The media is still dishonest, apparently. President Donald Trump is doubling down on his attacks on the press after widespread criticism of his Wrestlemania tweet this morning. Accompanying a clip from yesterday’s “I’m president and they’re not” speech at the Kennedy Center in Washington, Trump tweets that the “fake media” is trying to “silence us.” The clip might look familiar – the speech has been widely reported in the media, and includes this line about the press, “Instead of being subtle and smart, they use the hatchet.”
And in an update to his report on Reliable Sources (see below), CNN’s Brian Stelter says a Twitter spokesperson tells CNN that the Trump tweet does not violate its anti-violence policies.
Previous, Sunday morning President Donald Trump upped the appalling ante of his Twitter habit this morning, sending out a holiday weekend message of himself body-slamming and fake-sucker-punching a man – later identified as WWE’s Vince McMahon – in a staged appearance at a 2007 professional wrestling event, a CNN logo superimposed over the victim’s face.
CNN isn’t taking the joke, though, and has released a response, read by Brian Stelter on today’s Reliable Sources. Stelter devoted the entire hour of his show to a panel discussion of the video, CNN’s retraction of a story this week and the subsequent resignations of three journalists, and recent anti-media comments by the president.
Stelter said the network is taking the situation “very seriously,” and that the clip could magnify CNN’s existing concerns over threats against staffers. Stelter said he personally has asked Twitter’s press department about whether the video violates Twitter’s anti-violence and harassment policies. He said during Reliable Sources that CNN had not yet received a response from Twitter.
Here is CNN’s statement in full:
“It is a sad day when the President of the United States encourages violence against reporters. Clearly, Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied when she said the President had never done so. 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. We will keep doing our jobs. He should start doing his.”
Trump’s video ends with the words “Fraud News Network.” The clip was posted to both of Trump’s Twitter accounts – his more personal @realdonaldtrump account and his official @Potus page.
The clip is from a WWE pro-wrestling event in 2007, when Trump occasionally took part in the entertainment, and, according to Stelter, had been posted on Reddit in recent days. The president retweeted the clip at 6:21 am ET today, July 2, and within about seven hours the message had been retweeted 152,528 times and notched 235,957 likes.
On Reliable Sources, CNN contributor Carl Bernstein kicked off the discussion about the tweet. “First, it’s not just anti-CNN, it’s anti-freedom of press, anti-freedom of speech, a definitive statement by the President of the United States. And it also goes to the question that many military leaders are asking, [questions] by the intelligence community, by people in Congress, about the stability of the President of the United States. This is an index of his state of mind, visually. It’s very disturbing. There’s nothing light-hearted about it whatsoever – it is an incitement…”
Conservative radio host Ben Ferguson, calling in to Reliable Sources, disagreed, saying that the clip was meant to be humorous, and pointed to shows like Saturday Night Live that often mock the president.
“Everybody’s trying to over-exaggerate this,” Ferguson said, noting that Trump probably took “seven seconds” to see and re-tweet the clip.
“I’ve seen some of the trash that’s coming to people’s inboxes,” said Stelter about hateful messages being sent to CNN colleagues. “What he does in 7 seconds can hurt people,” Stelter said.
Meanwhile, on ABC’s This Week, co-anchor Martha Raddatz asked Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert whether the WWE tweet could be considered a threat.
“Certainly not,” Bossert said, “though I think that no one would perceive that as a threat. I hope they don’t. I do think that [Trump is] beaten up in a way on cable platforms that he has a right to respond to.”
The head of homeland security called Trump “the most genuine president and the most non-politician president that we’ve seen in my lifetime. And he’s demonstrated — whatever the content of that particular tweet is or any tweet, he’s demonstrated a genuine ability to communicate to the people.”
On MSNBC, guest and former Vermont governor Howard Dean called Trump “a buffoon.”
“I think he’s an embarrassment,” Dean said, “but I don’t think he’s a threat to the United States.”
The tweet is the latest in a string of recent anti-media messages posted by the president, including a much-criticized tweet that falsely claimed Morning Joe‘s Mika Brzezinski was “bleeding badly” from a facelift during a New Year’s party at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. Addressing the matter on Morning Joe Friday, Brzezinski and co-host Joe Scarborough also said Trump aides had offered to spike a nasty National Enquirer story about the couple in exchange for a personal apology to the president over the show’s coverage.
But the wrestling smackdown video arrives in the midst of a cultural debate over where to draw the lines between humor, art, violence, intention and consequences. Kathy Griffin was fired by CNN from her annual New Year’s Eve co-hosting gig after she was photographed holding a bloody, decapitated dummy resembling Trump. A Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar, with the doomed title character done up like Trump, caused controversy and advertiser pull-outs.
Trump and his representatives were vociferous in condemning Griffin and the Caesar production, with Trump calling Griffin “sick” and Donald Trump Jr. asking, “When does ‘art’ become political speech?”
Here is Trump’s anti-CNN tweet: