President Donald Trump accused much of the news media of being “out of control,” saying at a White House press conference in Thursday that “many reporters will not tell you the truth.”
“The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about it we are doing a tremendous disservice to American people,” Trump told reporters, in a marathon press conference in which he spent much of his time bashing the media for being alternately “fake” and for reporting “real leaks” coming from unnamed sources.
His comments came amid reports that members of Trump’s campaign team were in contact with Russian officials. Various stories in the Washington Post, The New York Times, and CNN have cited unnamed intelligence and other sources.
He called “the whole Russian thing” a “ruse.” When asked whether anyone on his campaign had contact with Russia, he said “nobody that I know of.”
Trump lashed out at the reports in a tweet on Thursday, even saying the media should apologize.
Leaking, and even illegal classified leaking, has been a big problem in Washington for years. Failing @nytimes (and others) must apologize!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 16, 2017
“Leaking, and even illegal classified leaking, has been a big problem in Washington for years. Failing @nytimes (and others) must apologize!” Trump posted.
At the press conference, he tried to make a distinction between the type of leaks made during the campaign — of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta — and those that have beset his White House since he took office. The latter leaks, Trump said, were of classified material.
He pushed back against media reports that his administration was in “chaos,” instead saying that it was running like a “fine-tuned machine.”
Trump seemed so frustrated at the nature of reporting on his first few weeks in office that he at one point insisted that he was “not ranting and raving.” He said that he was enjoying the exchanges with reporters — and the length of time he devoted to the press conference was evidence of that. It ran for about 80 minutes.
He said that the media “is attacking our administration because they know that we are following through on our pledges to the American people, and they are not happy about it.”
The blustery press conference was unusual not just for its tone but for its timing, as Trump revealed his frustrations with the media only weeks into his term. At one point, he told reporters in the East Room, “The public doesn’t believe you anymore.” He seemed particularly fixated on CNN and its president, Jeff Zucker, as well as its White House correspondent Jim Acosta. He at one point said that he doesn’t watch the network anymore, then pointed out his displeasure with one of its shows in the 10 p.m. ET hour.
He said that on CNN, “story after story is bad. I won.”
He also revealed a number of breaking news items, including that the White House is working on a new executive order on immigration after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reinstate it.
The official purpose of his impromptu press conference was to announce Alexander Acosta as his next nominee for labor secretary, after Andrew Puzder withdrew from consideration. But it quickly veered off into Trump’s attack on the media, as well as an opportunity for him to recite his agenda and accomplishments.
“I am here following through on what I pledged to do,” he said, vowing that he would take the message directly to the American people. He has a rally scheduled for Saturday in Florida.
Acosta served in the administration of President George W. Bush as assistant attorney general in the civil rights division, and was a member of the National Labor Relations Board. He also has been a dean of Florida International University’s College of Law.
“He has had a tremendous career,” Trump said, adding that he has been through Senate confirmation three times.
Trump also said that he met with prominent donor Paul Singer, who had opposed his candidacy and has become a “strong ally.”
“It’s all about unification — we are unifying the party and hopefully we will be unifying the country,” he said.