Juan Williams: The real story behind Trump's attack on me

Now I know firsthand how fast political coverage of President TrumpDonald John TrumpAlaska Republican Party cancels 2020 primary Ukrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' MORE leads to bullying and threats.

When Trump tweeted out last week that my political analysis of him was “nasty,” “pathetic” and “wrong,” it led to an instant stream of vile comments via email and on my social media feeds.

And, yes, you’re right. I’m a big boy. I can ignore his bullying, even his followers’ death threats.

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But this goes beyond Trump skewering me.

He is engaged in a coordinated attack on every journalist’s ability to hold him accountable, call out his lies and critique his failed policies.

Trump targeted me last week after watching a “Fox News Sunday” discussion of the damage being done by what I called his “brutish” strategy for forcing China to agree to a new trade deal.

I was asked if Democrats did not agree with the president’s decision to confront China for its unfair trade practices, including stealing intellectual property.

I said yes, it is true that Democrats have pressed for a better trade deal with China. But I added that Democrats are disturbed by the president’s heavy-handed use of tariffs. It has led to a damaging trade war that is pushing the world to the edge of economic recession.

And I added that despite Trump’s denials, his use of tariffs is driving up prices for American consumers while fostering a lack of economic stability. As a result, big business is less likely to make capital investments. That hurts the stock market.

That last point, I mentioned, has been made by the Wall Street Journal editorial board, hardly a bastion of liberal economic thought.

Note the absence of any personal attack on Trump. It was a commentary on the president’s policies.

Several hours later, my phone exploded after Trump tweeted:

"Juan Williams at @FoxNews is so pathetic, and yet when he met me in the Fox Building lobby, he couldn’t have been nicer as he asked me to take a picture of him and me for his family," the president wrote. "Yet he is always nasty and wrong!"

He followed that up with another attack on me in front of reporters on the White House lawn. This time he excoriated me, my network and my Fox colleague Donna BrazileDonna Lease BrazilePoliticon announces lineup including Comey, Hannity, Priebus Trump: 'Top shows' on Fox News, cable are 'Fair (or great)' to me Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network MORE.

"Fox is a lot different than it used to be, I can tell you that," Trump shouted. "Juan Williams. Then they have the wonderful woman that gave Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonUkrainian official denies Trump pressured president The Memo: 'Whistleblower' furor gains steam Missing piece to the Ukraine puzzle: State Department's overture to Rudy Giuliani MORE the questions. That was a terrible thing. And, all of a sudden, she's working for Fox. What's she doing working for Fox? Fox has changed. And my worst polls have always been from Fox. There's something going on at Fox, I'll tell you right now. And I'm not happy with it."

I know what it is like to be targeted by powerful people who don’t like my views.

As a Washington Post reporter covering the corrupt administration of D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, I was badmouthed by Barry and his supporters. They called me an "Uncle Tom" working for a white newspaper. I got menacing calls warning me not to start my car, telling me where my children went to school. Then, as the calls intensified, my house was broken into — my wife found a butcher’s knife left on the bed.

Later in my career, National Public Radio fired me and its top executives called me a bigot in need of psychiatric attention. Why? In commentary, I admitted that after the 2001 terror attacks, I got nervous about getting on planes with people dressed in Muslim religious garb even as I supported building a mosque near Ground Zero.

But those attacks are a step down from a blitz launched by the president using the world’s biggest Bully Pulpit at a time of deep political polarization, rising hate crimes and hate speech on social media.

Allow me to make two points:

First, what happened to me is a chilling example of how this president does not respect the First Amendment rights of any journalist.

He long ago crossed a bright line by labeling journalists the “enemy of the American people.” During the 2016 campaign, his supporters could be heard shouting “Luggenpresse” — the Nazi-popularized German word meaning "Lying Press" — to American reporters.

And in 2017 he tweeted NBC and other broadcast networks are so “distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked.”

My second point has to do with his support for online provocateurs who delight in trolling liberals while feeding conservatives a diet of fear and grievance.

In July, he held a “Social Media Summit” at the White House with a guest list that included the man famed for pushing a distorted edit of a video to malign former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenUkrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' Warren overtakes Biden in Iowa for first time: poll MORE as a babbling idiot.

“Instead of combatting Russian social media misinformation ... the President has invited trolls, conspiracy theorists, anti-Semites ... to the White House,” tweeted Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerOvernight Defense: Trump hits Iranian central bank with sanctions | Trump meeting with Ukrainian leader at UN | Trump touts relationship with North Korea's Kim as 'best thing' for US Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg courts critics on Capitol Hill | Amazon makes climate pledge | Senate panel approves 0M for state election security Zuckerberg woos Washington critics during visit MORE (D-Va.).

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The president’s top message to these fake content providers or non-journalists is a promise to prevent social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter, from cracking down on them.

In fact, the social media outlets, including Twitter and Facebook, have been slow to crack down on the highly profitable spread of lies, conspiracies and online bullying.

Sorry to disappoint, Mr. President, but I will continue to point out your failures: How about telling your pal #MoscowMitch to send you the bills he is blocking to protect against future election interference?

But just because you attack me personally, I will not refrain from praising you.

Kudos to you for criminal justice reform and backing school choice, Mr. President.

Bet you weren’t expecting that.

 

About that photo…

In his critical tweet about me, Donald Trump mentioned a photo taken at Fox News in New York and states I asked for a picture with him. That is a total misrepresentation of what happened.

I was standing with my colleague, Ed Henry, when Trump walked through security. He came right over to me. We talked and then, while he talked with Ed, the building’s maintenance man, an older man, waved at me and asked if he could get a picture with Trump. I went over to Trump and made the request. He obliged. Then the maintenance man, now joined by other people, offered to reciprocate by taking a photo of me with Trump; Ed with Trump and more.

I never asked for a picture with Trump and never brought my family into the conversation.

How sad to see the president distort a moment of civility and kindness from all involved — including himself — because of my commentary on his handling of trade negotiations with China.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.