President Trump sparred with members of the press at the White House on Thursday, complaining about what he described as the media’s negative tone in its coverage of his administration — and, in particular, coverage of the recent leaks about the Trump campaign’s alleged contacts with Russia.
“The leaks are absolutely real,” Trump said. “The news is fake.”
Trump was asked by CNN’s Jim Acosta about the “disconnect” the president sees between the leaks and the news that comes out of them.
In response, the president painted himself as a savvy media insider.
“Here’s the thing: The public, they read newspapers, they see television, they watch… they don’t know if it’s true or false, because they’re not involved,” Trump said. “I’m involved. I’ve been involved with this stuff all my life. But I’m involved. So I know when you’re telling the truth and when you’re not.”
Trump also criticized the tone of the media’s coverage.
“The tone is such hatred,” Trump said. “I’m really not a bad person by the way.”
Trump said he watched “a couple” of the cable news programs on Thursday morning — and praised “Fox & Friends.”
“I have to say, ‘Fox & Friends’ in the morning, they’re very honorable people,” Trump said. “Not because they’re good — because they hit me also when I do something wrong. But they have the most honest morning show.”
Trump singled out “CNN Tonight With Don Lemon” as an example of what he perceives as “hatred” toward him.
“You just take a look at that show,” Trump said. “That is a constant hit. … The panel is almost always exclusive anti-Trump. And the hatred and venom coming from his mouth.”
The president, who earlier in the press conference claimed he no longer watches CNN, admitted he actually does.
“I watch it. I see it. I’m amazed by it,” Trump said. “The public gets it. When I go to rallies, [the people] turn around and they start screaming at CNN. They want to throw their placards at CNN. I think you would do much better by being different.”
Trump has tangled with Acosta before. Last month, at his first press conference since July, Trump berated Acosta as he attempted to ask a question, labeling CNN “fake news.”
On Thursday, Acosta asked why Trump — who repeatedly praised leaks of emails obtained in hacks of Hillary Clinton campaign staffers during the presidential campaign — is suddenly critical about those who are now leaking information that led to the ouster of Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser.
“In one case, you’re talking about highly classified information,” Trump said of the recent leaks. “In the other case, you’re talking about [former Clinton campaign chairman] John Podesta saying bad things about the boss. I will say this, if John Podesta said that about me and he was working for me, I would’ve fired him so fast your head would’ve spun. He said terrible things about her, but it wasn’t classified information.”
Trump said he was disappointed that some of the leaks related to Clinton’s campaign weren’t front-page news.
“If I had that happen to me, it would be the biggest story in the history of publishing,” the president said.
Earlier, during a rambling 25-minute statement, Trump blasted the media’s overall tone in covering his presidency.
“I see stories about chaos. Chaos!” Trump said. “Yet it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.”
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