U.S. President Donald Trump unleashed new attacks Tuesday on mainstream television networks, claiming they are "worried about the competition and quality" from a conservative broadcasting chain his 2016 campaign cut a deal with to try to give him better media coverage.
Trump, in a pair of Twitter remarks, called CNN, NBC, ABC and CBS "The Fake News Networks," pointedly excluding his favorite channel, Fox News, from his criticism. He contended that the four mainstream U.S. television networks "knowingly have a sick and biased AGENDA."
The U.S. leader claimed the four networks are concerned about the rise of Sinclair Broadcast Group, which already owns 193 stations around the country, and pending an anti-trust review by the government, is looking to buy more that would allow it to reach 70 percent of U.S. households.
Trump said "the FAKERS" at the mainstream networks "have done so much dishonest reporting that they should only be allowed to get awards for fiction!"
Two years ago, Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, now a key White House adviser, told business executives after the election that the future president agreed to give Sinclair more access during his campaign in exchange for airing interviews with Trump without accompanying commentary that might have undercut his message to voters.
In his Tuesday tweets, Trump singled out one of his favorite media targets, CNN, claiming, without providing any evidence, "that you can’t get a job at ratings challenged @CNN unless you state that you are totally anti-Trump." He called CNN's top executive, "Little Jeff Zuker," misspelling his surname Zucker, saying that his "job is in jeopardy" and that he "is not having much fun lately."
"They should clean up and strengthen CNN and get back to honest reporting!" Trump tweeted.
CNN responded to Trump's tweet, saying, "“Once again, false. The personal political beliefs of CNN's employees are of no interest to us. Their pursuit of the truth is our only concern. Also, Jeff's last name is spelled Z-U-C-K-E-R. Those are the facts. #FactsFirst.”
Media critics have attacked Sinclair in recent days for requiring that its local news anchors throughout the country broadcast, without alteration, commentary that mirrors some of Trump's assessment of the news industry. The script called for the news anchors to say they were "concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country."
As news surfaced of the Sinclair edict to its on-air broadcasters, Trump tweeted Monday, "So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased. Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke."
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