White House offers unapologetic defense of Trump tweets

The White House offered an unapologetic defense Thursday of President Trump’s tweets attacking MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski during a contentious televised press briefing.

Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders was grilled over whether Trump’s inflammatory tweet was beneath the dignity of the presidency, fueled a hostile political environment and set a bad example of how women should be treated by powerful men.

She responded by defending Trump and berating reporters for ignoring the president’s policy agenda on taxes, healthcare and infrastructure.

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“The only person I see a war on is this president and everybody that works for him,” she said. “I don’t think you can expect someone to be personally attacked, day after day, minute by minute, and sit back. The American people elected a fighter.”

Sanders said Trump shows the dignity of his office “every day in the decisions he's making, the focus and the priorities he's laid out in his agenda.

“He's not going to sit back and be attacked by the liberal media, Hollywood elites — and when they hit him, he's going to hit back,” she said.

Trump’s outburst at Brzezinski escalated his long-running feud with the news media, a fight in which he appeared to gain the upper hand this week after CNN was forced to retract a story about the Russia probe.

But Trump’s decision to take aim at her looks, saying that the “Morning Joe” co-host had been “bleeding badly” from a “face-lift,” sparked bipartisan outrage in Washington.

“Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America,” GOP Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamKim, Moon toss ball to Trump in ‘last, best chance’ for Korean peace GOP senator: Kavanaugh accuser 'moving the goalposts' Collins: Kavanaugh accuser should 'reconsider,' testify on Monday MORE (R-S.C.) tweeted.

Critics on both side of the aisle took specific issue with Trump’s attack on a female reporter — Trump faced repeated allegations of sexism and harassment that bubbled up during his presidential campaign.

Kansas Republican Rep. Lynn Jenkins tweeted Thursday that Trump’s comments were “not okay,” adding that “we should be working to empower women.”

But Sanders pushed aside the notion that Trump’s tweets were sexist or a bad example for how to treat women.

“Everybody wants to make this an attack on a woman — what about the constant attacks that he receives or the rest of us?” she said.

“I'm a woman, I've been attacked by that show multiple times, but I don’t cry foul because of it.”

When another reporter followed up by asking if Sanders felt that the tweet set a good example for her children, she deflected by saying that God is the “one perfect role model.”

The spokesperson chided reporters for not focusing more on policy questions and the White House’s legislative agenda, saying that reporters are more consumed by investigations related to Russia election interference and possible collusion between Trump campaign aides and Moscow.

“The media’s focus on priorities don’t line up with the rest of America,” she said. “America is winning, and that is what we like to talk about, but you guys constantly ignore that narrative.”

But critics say Trump’s Twitter broadsides against the media and the Russia investigation are distractions from his policy message.

In addition to the healthcare debate on Capitol Hill, Trump’s staff planned out a series of messaging events called “Energy Week,” featuring a presidential speech about energy development later Thursday. Those events have been overshadowed by the president’s attack.

It also undercut his call for unity after this month’s shooting at a congressional baseball practice that left House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and others injured.

“We may have our differences, but we do well in times like these to remember everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because, above all, they love our country,” Trump said at the White House on June 14, the day of the shooting.