CBS News’ “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson seemed to imply that President Donald Trump should be held responsible for any acts of violence targeting mainstream media outlets during an interview Sunday.
When White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus made the Sunday morning talk show rounds, he was confronted repeatedly about the president’s tweet Friday in which Trump called the “fake news media” the “enemy of the American people” because of their biased, and sometimes incorrect, reporting on his administration. But Dickerson took the media outrage a step further, appearing to imply the tweet could stir violence.
“I mean, certainly we would never condone violence. But I do think that we condone critical thought.”
“In the past, when the president was a candidate and he targeted people, say, protesters at a rally, some people found that an opportunity to take license and target those people,” Dickerson told Priebus. “As a spokesman for the White House here with us today, what would you say to anybody who might take license with the idea that when the president says the press is the enemy, and act on that declaration by the president?”
Priebus seemed taken aback by the leading question.
“Well, I don’t know what you mean by ‘act on it.’ I mean, certainly we would never condone violence. But I do think that we condone critical thought,” Priebus responded. “And I think that if Americans put critical thought, which I think they will, into what they’re reading in these newspapers and actually what’s being accomplished by the Trump administration, they would realize that the press in many cases has not been doing their job in reporting the truth.”
The tweet the president issued Friday that sent the mainstream media outlets and pundits up in arms said, “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
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Priebus expressed his frustration that many of the same pundits expressing outrage were not equally incensed by the “bogus” reports that have been dogging the White House since Trump assumed the presidency.
“I think that the problem we’ve got is that we’re talking about bogus stories like the one in The New York Times, that we’ve had constant contact with Russian officials,” Priebus told Dickerson, referring to a story published Wednesday.”The next day, The Wall Street Journal had a story that the intel community was not giving the president a full intelligence briefing. Both stories grossly inaccurate, overstated, overblown and it’s total garbage.”
Priebus added that “the American people suffer” when the media speculate for hours on end about these “total garbage” reports instead of covering the actions the Trump administration is actually taking.
“So we spend, you know, 48 hours on bogus stories. And the American people suffer. So I do think it’s a problem,” Priebus said. “If the theory is that the press is supposed to be a free forum of information to speak to the American people, I think it ought to be accurate.”
Priebus hammered the willingness of so many in the media to twist stories to fit an anti-Trump narrative.
“We don’t believe everyone is lousy in the media. We don’t believe everything is bad. But there are some things that are really bad. And we’ve tried, he categorizes that as fake news,” Priebus told host Chuck Todd on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.” “What we’ve been through over the last 10 days has unbelievable: the leaks, the fake stories, the anonymous accusations. That stuff is bad, and that’s what [Trump’s] referring to.”
“And the amount of drama and spin that you read about, mostly in the Washington daily gossip rags, is unbelievable stuff and it just isn’t true. And you read it every day and you wonder what alternative universe they’re reporting on because it just isn’t true,” Priebus added. “We just want to get this stuff back on the rails and more honest in regard to these really big accusations that are coming at us.”
The media frenzy was stirred by the hyperbolic pronouncements of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
“If you want to preserve … democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press,” McCain said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.”
Although he claimed that he was not calling Trump a dictator yet, McCain made the comments in the context of hammering the president.
“[Dictators] get started by suppressing free press,” McCain said. “In other words, a consolidation of power when you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press. And I’m not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I’m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.”
But Priebus maintained that the president has no problem with a free press when it reports accurately and honestly upon the facts.
“I think you should be concerned about mainstream news outlets that are acting like, you know, Washington daily gossip magazines instead of the way it used to be …” Priebus told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace. “There are certain things that are happening in the news that just aren’t honest.”