President Trump took his fight with the news media to the world stage on Thursday, hammering CNN and his political enemies in the press as “fake news” at a press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw.
Trump gave the first question of the press conference to Daily Mail editor David Martosko, a Trump ally who has been considered for various administration posts. That led CNN White House reporter Jim Acosta to allege a set-up.
Isn't it a "fake news conference" to take a question from a reporter who is essentially an ally of the White House? https://t.co/vD7DgAZXIv— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) July 6, 2017
Martosko asked Trump about the controversy that exploded around CNN on Wednesday, when the network published a story claiming to know the identity of the man who created a video Trump tweeted, which showed him tackling a wrestler with the CNN logo emblazoned over his face.
Separately from the video, the Reddit user in question has allegedly posted racist and anti-Semitic statements online. CNN said it would reserve the right to expose him if he ever posts offensive material online again, leading critics to accuse the network of blackmailing the Reddit user.
The network has been under fire from the right and from some First Amendment advocates who accused them of threatening to ruin the life of a private citizen out of vengeance.
Trump didn’t miss a beat, saying that the network “has some pretty serious problems.”
“They have been fake news for a long time,” Trump said. “They’ve been covering me in a very dishonest way.”
The Kremlin also got in on the attacks on the media, a day before Trump is scheduled to meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
According to the Russia-backed news outlet TASS, a CNN reporter asked Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov to confirm their report that Putin planned to travel to Istanbul after the G-20 summit.
"[CNN]has been making a lot of mistakes lately,” Peskov said, according to TASS. “You should advise them to be more careful and use information, which is more verified. This will help your image."
At the press conference, Trump also slammed NBC, noting that he once pulled big ratings for the network, which aired his program “The Apprentice." Then-NBC president Jeff Zucker now heads CNN.
Trump has feuded bitterly with the anchors of the morning political talk show “Morning Joe” on NBC’s cable outlet, MSNBC.
“NBC is equally as bad, despite the fact that I made them a fortune, they forgot about that,” Trump said. “But I will say that CNN has really taken it too seriously and I think has hurt themselves very badly. Very, very badly. What we want to see in the United States is honest, beautiful, free, but honest press. We want fair press. We don’t want fake news, and by the way, not everybody is fake news. Bad thing. Very bad for our country.”
The attacks further inflamed tensions between the White House and the press on a trip that is ostensibly meant to focus on Trump’s foreign policy agenda.
The president has high-stakes meetings planned with Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping this week. Still, his feud with the media has taken up attention on American airwaves and provoked an angry response from CNN.
CNN anchor Chris Cuomo accused Trump of taking “the petty political plays” of domestic politics onto “the world stage.”
Acosta, who has emerged as one of Trump’s chief antagonists in the White House press corps, lashed out at him, calling the performance a “fake news conference” and accusing the president of using conservative media outlets to further his agenda.
"Unfortunately, this was not a surprise at all that the president would take the first question from an American reporter during his foreign trip here and that it would be from the friendly news media, friendly reporter who teed up a question about CNN,” Acosta said.
“For the president to then go off on CNN as fake news, to me, just made this entire spectacle feel like a fake news conference. This was not an attempt by the president to seek out a question from somebody who was going to challenge him on the issues."
CNN has been at the center of Trump’s media attacks. Many conservatives loathe the network, believing it has revealed bias against conservatives with its relentlessly negative coverage of the Trump administration.
Trump’s history with Zucker has also given the feud a personal bent.
The network has been stung by several high-profile controversies.
CNN has had to retract two stories pertaining to the investigation into Russian meddling. One of the retractions led to the resignation of three of the network's journalists.
And last week, conservative activist James O’Keefe released a string of sting videos about the network.
In one video, an Atlanta-based medical news producer called CNN’s Russia coverage “bullshit” and accused the network of burying important stories and obsessing over allegations of collusion.
A second producer criticized senior counselor Kellyanne Conway’s looks, while analyst Van Jones was caught describing the investigation into potential collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia as a “nothing-burger.”
On Thursday, Acosta gave his critics on the right more political ammunition, accusing Trump of lying about how many intelligence agencies had contributed to a report that determined the Russians had interfered in the 2016 election.
The Associated Press and New York Times have run corrections to stories that claimed all 17 agencies that fall under the umbrella of the Intelligence community contributed to the report, when in fact only four — the CIA, FBI, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Security Agency — had contributed to that conclusion.
“The other thing that was fake news coming from President Trump was he kept saying it wasn’t 17 intelligence agencies saying it was Russian meddled in the election, I think it was only three or four — where does that number come from? Where does this three or four number come from?” Acosta said. “My suspicion is if we go to the administration and ask them for this, I’m not so sure we’ll get an answer and if we do it will probably be off camera.”
Conservative outlets were quick to point out the error.
Trump says something true, correcting a media error. CNN's Acosta is unfamiliar with this fact, calls it 'fake news' https://t.co/kiY7mwciZa— Tim Carney (@TPCarney) July 6, 2017