President Donald Trump ratcheted up his attacks on U.S. news media Sunday, tweeting a doctored, 10-year-old wrestling video that showed him tackling and punching a figure labeled as CNN, the television news network he has repeatedly denounced for so-called "fake news."
With negative comments about Trump's Twitter tactics streaming in throughout the day from establishment political figures and media groups, Trump took to social media again late Sunday, declaring "the fake media is trying to silence us, but we will not let them."
Pledging he would triumph over "the dishonest media," the president accompanied his latest tweet with a video excerpt of his speech a day earlier at a rally in Washington commemorating the U.S. national holiday on July 4.
The president's remarks about the news media drew a standing ovation from his audience.
Trump has railed against major newspapers and television networks for their coverage of his five-month-old presidency, but he has aimed increasing vitriol in recent days against CNN. The network has retracted a story that linked a Trump supporter to the investigation of ties between Russian officials and the Trump political campaign before last year's U.S. presidential election.
The video singling out CNN that Trump posted to his Twitter account earlier Sunday came from a professional Wrestlemania event 10 years ago, where Trump performed outside the wrestling ring in a fake match. In Sunday's version, the CNN logo is superimposed on the head of Trump's opponent as the future president, wearing a business suit, pounds away in fake punches with his fists before walking away triumphantly.
White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert, in a television interview (ABC), rejected the idea that someone might interpret Trump's video as a threat against journalists.
"No one would perceive that as a threat; I hope they don't," Bossert said.
CNN said in a statement: "It is a sad day when the president of the United States encourages violence against reporters. 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 instead involved in juvenile behavior far below the dignity of his office. We will keep doing our jobs. He should start doing his."
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which advocates for journalists' rights, condemned the Trump video and said it "glorified physical violence against members of the press."
Apart from his remarks about "the dishonest media," the patriotic rally that Trump addressed Saturday evening at the capital's John F. Kennedy Memorial Center for the Performing Arts "resembled both a political rally and an evangelical Christian religious service," according to a White House reporter for Reuters. ((https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-idUSKBN19N013 )) A choir sang and attendees waved miniature American flags from their seats.
"Since the signing of the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago, America always affirmed that liberty comes from our creator," Trump said. "Our rights are given to us by God, and no earthly force can ever take those rights away."
Trump is due to leave Washington later this week for a trip to Poland and Germany, where he will meet with leaders from other members of the Group of 20 nations, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump's broadside against CNN came after days of his Twitter attacks on the two main hosts of a political news and talk show on the MSNBC cable network.
Of TV personalities Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, and their Morning Joe weekday morning program, Trump tweeted: "I heard poorly rated @MorningJoe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!"
Trump's tweet maligning the intellect and appearance of Brzezinski drew widespread condemnation from Republicans and Democrats alike, but the White House defended his comments. Trump himself sent a followup tweet defending his use of social media as "modern day presidential," a way to communicate with millions of his followers by bypassing traditional U.S. media outlets.
Well-known conservative political commentator Bill Kristol, editor-at-large of The Weekly Standard, also took to Twitter Sunday to discuss the controversy over the president's use of Twitter.
Kristol compared the United States role in the world since Trump was sworn in as president on January 20 to the fall of the Roman Empire, and to the behavior of the leaders in ancient Rome: "The speed with which we're recapitulating the decline and fall of Rome is impressive. What took Rome centuries we're accomplishing in months."