Fox News anchor Chris Wallace pressed President Donald Trump’s chief of staff Reince Priebus to explain why the president characterised the media as the “enemy of the American people.”
In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Wallace asked Priebus if Trump believes that “a free and independent press is a threat to the country.”
Priebus attempted to soften Trump’s claim, saying that the president was referring to reports that members of Trump’s presidential campaign potentially communicated with Russian intelligence officials during the campaign.
“There are certain things that are happening in the news that just aren’t honest. We’re not talking about everyone, Chris. We’re not talking about all news. We are talking about something he’s termed as fake news,” Priebus said.
When the chief of staff dismissed the recent reports about Trump’s potential ties to Russia as “total garbage,” Wallace pointed out that the president’s rhetoric did not have the nuance Priebus was articulating.
“Reince, here’s the problem. I don’t have any problem with you complaining about an individual story. We sometimes get it wrong, you guys sometimes get it wrong. I don’t have any problem with you complaining about bias,” Wallace said.
“But the president went a lot further than that. He said that the ‘fake media,’ not certain stories, the ‘fake media,’ are an enemy to the country. We don’t have a state-run media in this country. That’s what they have in dictatorships.”
Priebus argued that “other cable stations not necessarily FOX” only briefly covered events like Trump’s meetings with foreign leaders and announcement of the president’s Supreme Court nominee, saying outlets instead focused on ties between Russia and the Trump campaign “all day long, on every chyron, every seven minutes.”
“As soon as it was over, the next twenty hours is all about Russian spies, how no one get’s along, how nothing’s happening. Give me a break,” Priebus said.
“You don’t get to tell us what to do, Reince. You don’t get to tell us what to do any more than Barack Obama did. Barack Obama whined about Fox News all the time, but I’ve got to say, he never said we were an enemy of the people,” Wallace replied.
After Priebus said he was “surprised” Wallace would forget “all the shots” that Obama took at Fox News, the anchor interjected.
“He took the shots, and we didn’t like them, and frankly, we don’t like this either. But he never went as far as President Trump has. And that’s what’s concerning. Because it seems like he crosses a line when he says that we’re the enemy of the people,” Wallace said.
“I think you should be concerned about mainstream news outlets that are acting like Washington daily gossip magazines,” Priebus replied.
Though media criticism was a staple of his presidential campaign, Trump has ratcheted up his attacks on many established outlets, singling out CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times for publishing negative reports about his White House, often relying on anonymous sources.
The president engaged in a kind of meta-criticism of the media during a press conference on Thursday, predicting how some outlets would report on his 75-minute-long screed against many of the journalists in the room.
“I used to give a news conference every day. That’s how I won, with news conference, and probably speeches. I certainly didn’t win with people listening to you people. But I’m having a good time. Tomorrow they will say ‘Donald Trump rants and raves.’ I’m not ranting and raving. I’m just telling you people,” Trump said.
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