Times publisher fires back at Trump

New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger on Wednesday responded to President TrumpDonald John TrumpBusiness school deans call for lifting country-specific visa caps Bolton told ex-Trump aide to call White House lawyers about Ukraine pressure campaign: report Federal prosecutors in New York examining Giuliani business dealings with Ukraine: report MORE's attacks against the newspaper, saying that calling the media the "enemy of the people" is both "false" and "dangerous." 

Sulzberger made the comments in an expansive statement in which he detailed the role the free press has had since the United States' founding. 

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He noted that many presidents "had complaints about their coverage and at times took advantage of the freedom every American has to criticize journalists."

"But in demonizing the free press as the enemy, simply for performing its role of asking difficult questions and bringing uncomfortable information to light, President Trump is retreating from a distinctly American principle." Sulzberger said. "It’s a principle that previous occupants of the Oval Office fiercely defended regardless of their politics, party affiliation, or complaints about how they were covered."

Sulzberger added that Trump's "incendiary rhetoric is encouraging threats and violence against journalists at home and abroad."

The comments came only hours after Trump accused the Times of releasing a "false" report about the ways in which he has tried to influence the investigations into him and his allies.

"The New York Times reporting is false," Trump tweeted. "They are a true ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!"

Trump did not comment on any of the specifics of the newspaper's report.

The Times reported on Tuesday that Trump, among other things, once asked former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to place U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in charge of the Southern District of New York's investigation into Trump's ex-lawyer Michael Cohen.

Berman, who had donated to Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, had recused himself from the investigation. Whitaker never acted on Trump's request, according to the newspaper. 

“I don’t know who gave you that,” Trump said when asked about the report on Tuesday.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said in a statement that the White House had not asked Whitaker to interfere in investigations. The spokeswoman pointed to his congressional testimony from earlier this month to support the claim. 

Trump has repeatedly derided the media as "fake news" and the "enemy of the people" during his presidency. He accused the major news networks of engaging in collusion against his administration in a tweet over the weekend. 

Trump sat down with reporters from the Times and Sulzberger for an interview late last month. In that interview, Sulzberger cautioned Trump that his language about the media could influence how leaders around the globe treat their home country's press corps.

"What you do is a very important thing," Trump said. "And I will tell you, I would love if I was just covered fairly."

In addition to his criticism of the Times, Trump also asserted on Wednesday that the "press has never been more dishonest than it is today."

"Stories are written that have absolutely no basis in fact. The writers don’t even call asking for verification," Trump said on Twitter. They are totally out of control. Sadly, I kept many of them in business. In six years, they all go BUST!"

New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman called Trump's claim a "lie," adding that she "sent several emails" to the White House while working on the latest report.