US president rebuffs calls to tone down rhetoric despite threats made to his critics, anti-Semitic synagogue rampage
US President Donald Trump escalated his attacks on the news media Monday following a week of election-season violence, arguing that “fraudulent” reporting was contributing to anger in the country and declaring that the press was the “true Enemy of the People.”
Trump tweeted: “There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news.” He added that the media “must stop the open & obvious hostility & report the news accurately & fairly.”
The president’s comments came after a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue that left 11 dead, and after a mail bomb scare that had targeted Democrats and CNN. The violence rattled a deeply divided nation and prompted questions about whether Trump should tone done his rhetoric.
CNN President Jeff Zucker said another suspicious package addressed to CNN was intercepted Monday at an Atlanta post office. Zucker announced that there was no imminent danger to the CNN Center.
Trump strongly condemned the Pittsburgh attack as an act of anti-Semitism and has denounced political violence and called for unity. But with eight days to go before the midterm elections, he has continued to hold his political rallies, complete with harsh criticism of Democrats and the media.
At a rally Saturday night, Trump was somewhat muted, but still offered his standard campaign attack lines, including citing Hillary Clinton and Rep. Maxine Waters, both of whom were targeted in the bomb plot. On Twitter on Sunday, he savaged billionaire businessman Tom Steyer, another target of the mail bombs.
The man arrested in connection with the mail bomb plot, Cesar Sayoc, was a fervent Trump supporter.
The White House has pushed back against the suggestion Trump should change course. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said on CNN on Monday that Trump was “trying to heal the country.” Asked about Trump’s comments since the massacre, she pointed to Waters’ and Steyer’s criticism of the Republican president and went on to say Trump was seeking unity.
“The president’s not trying to reach his base by denouncing anti-Semitism and asking everybody to rise above hate, he’s being the president of all Americans,” Conway said.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway attends a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on March 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Trump has said he will travel to Pittsburgh, but the White House has not offered any details on his plans. He contended on Saturday that it was important to keep going with his political rallies, arguing that to do otherwise would be to let “evil” win. He is planning an aggressive campaign schedule during the final days leading up to the November 6 elections.
Throughout his campaign and presidency, Trump has been an unrelenting critic of the media. Last week, the New York offices of CNN, the cable network frequently attacked by Trump and his supporters, was evacuated after receiving an explosive device and an envelope containing white powder.
While stopping short of blaming Trump’s rhetoric for inspiring the attacks, Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN Worldwide, contended there was a “total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media.”