President Trump shared a video Sunday on Twitter of himself slamming WWE President Vince McMahon to the ground and punching him, with the CNN logo superimposed over McMahon’s head, escalating his recent attacks aimed at the news media.
The footage, taken from “WrestleMania 23” in 2007, shows Trump approaching McMahon outside of the ring, using a clothesline move to knock him down and punching him in the head before turning to walk away. A similar altered clip mocking CNN recently appeared on a Reddit.com message board.
The president’s tweet included a pair of disparaging hashtags: “#FraudNewsCNN” and “#FNN.” The video was also shared by the official @POTUS account.
“It is a sad day when the president of the United States encourages violence against reporters,” the network said in a statement. “Clearly, [White House press secretary] Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied when she said the president had never done so.”
The network added: “Instead of preparing for his overseas trip, his first meeting with Vladimir Putin, dealing with North Korea and working on his health care bill, he is involved in juvenile behavior far below the dignity of his office. We will keep doing our jobs. He should start doing his.”
Trump’s latest Twitter assault comes three days after his controversial tweets attacking MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski’s appearance.
On Thursday, the president lashed out at Brzezinski with an unusually harsh personal attack aimed at both her and her co-host, Joe Scarborough.
“I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore),” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!”
I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2017
…to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2017
The tweets sparked widespread condemnation from both sides of the aisle, with Republican lawmakers urging Trump to tone down the rhetoric and others openly questioning the president’s mental stability. The White House defended Trump’s attack, saying it was an acceptable response to the “Morning Joe” pair’s criticism of the president.
“When he gets attacked, he’s going to hit back,” Sanders told reporters. “I think the American people elected somebody who’s tough, who’s smart, and who’s a fighter. And that’s Donald Trump. And I don’t think that it’s a surprise to anybody that he fights fire with fire.”
Sanders also dismissed the notion that Trump encourages violent behavior.
“The president in no way, form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence,” Sanders said.
Aides told the Washington Post they were worried that Trump’s feud with “Morning Joe” was distracting from his feud with CNN, which they thought was more winnable.
Late last month, CNN retracted a story that suggested a questionable link between an ally of Trump and a Russian investment fund. The network announced the resignations of the reporters who wrote it and issued an apology.
At a Republican fundraiser at the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., last week, the president told donors it would be “fun” to sue CNN.
“These are really dishonest people. Should I sue them? I mean, they’re phonies,” Trump said, according to audio of the closed-door event published by the Intercept.
“It’s a shame what they’ve done to the name CNN, that I can tell you,” Trump added. “But as far as I’m concerned, I love it. If anybody’s a lawyer in the house and thinks I have a good lawsuit — I feel like we do. Wouldn’t that be fun?”
The president continued his anti-media tirade Saturday.
“The fake media is trying to silence us, but we will not let them,” Trump said during an event honoring veterans at the Kennedy Center in Washington. “The fake media tried to stop us from going to the White House, but I’m president and they’re not.”
My use of social media is not Presidential – it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL. Make America Great Again!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 1, 2017
On Sunday afternoon, Trump tripled down, tweeting a video of his anti-media remarks from the event honoring veterans.
“The dishonest media will NEVER keep us from accomplishing our objectives on behalf of our GREAT AMERICAN PEOPLE!” the president tweeted.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 2, 2017
On ABC’s “This Week,” Thomas Bossert, White House adviser for homeland security and counterterrorism, dismissed the idea that Trump’s latest tweet-slam is condoning violence against the media.
“I think that no one would perceive that as a threat,” Bossert said. “I hope they don’t. I do think that he’s beaten up in a way on cable platforms that he has a right to respond to.”
Ana Navarro, a conservative commentator who was highly critical of Trump’s attack on Brzezinski, called the anti-CNN tweet “an incitement to violence.”
“He is going to get somebody killed in the media,” Navarro said on ABC. “Maybe that will stop him.”
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) July 2, 2017
Like the Brzezinski tweet, Trump’s anti-CNN message drew bipartisan rebuke.
Violence & violent imagery to bully the press must be rejected. This #July4th, celebrate freedom of the press, guardians to our democracy
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) July 2, 2017
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) July 2, 2017
— Rep. Mike Coffman (@RepMikeCoffman) July 2, 2017
Trump’s tweet also came a month after Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., pleaded guilty to assaulting Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs on the eve of his election.
.@POTUS posts mock video of him attacking press, even after a GOP candidate did exactly that. Where will his downward spiral take us?
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) July 2, 2017
On CNN, conservative commentator Ben Ferguson said that he thought the tweet was funny and those who saw it as a threat were overreacting.
“When I saw it I initially laughed at it because I actually thought it was one of the more humorous moments of the real fighting back and forth the president has had with the media,” Ferguson said.
Famed Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein disagreed.
“There’s nothing lighthearted about it whatsoever,” he said on CNN. “It is an incitement.”
Bernstein noted that Trump applauded CNN and other media organizations during the 2016 campaign for coverage of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
“It’s great news when it suits him; it’s fake news when it doesn’t,” Bernstein said. “The nexus of fake news in America is the Trump White House.”
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