Just when you thought President Donald Trump's attack on America's free press couldn't get any worse, it does. In a statement reminiscent of attitudes held by totalitarian governments, President Trump called five mainstream news outlets "the enemy of the American people" Friday. Trump's statement came in a tweet that was published, deleted, and then published again in the span of no more than 20 minutes. Journalists from various news outlets have responded to Trump's tweet with a mix of disbelief, cautious humor, and pleas for restraint.
"The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People! SICK!" Trump tweeted Friday. However, just as soon as the tweet was published to Trump's official @realDonaldTrump Twitter account, it was deleted. Sixteen minutes later the president posted a revised version of the tweet to his account, having added @ABC and @CBS to the list of "fake news" media outlets he considered to be "the enemy of the American people."
While Trump's latest statement represents a dangerous escalation of his anti-news media rhetoric, it's not altogether surprising considering his penchant for deeming articles critical of him as "fake news." In fact, Trump's tweet came a day after the president held a lengthy news conference in which he dismissed reports on some of his campaign staffers' alleged ties to Russia as "fake" and reprimanded members of the media, calling them "dishonest people."
But if Trump was hoping his classification of the national media as "the enemy of the American people" might intimidate (or simply stun) reporters and journalists into a more agreeable silence, he was likely sorely disappointed by their reaction Friday. Journalists from various different news outlets took to Twitter to dissect and condemn the president's words almost immediately, issuing harsh, and at times comedic, rebukes of his apparent disregard for a free press, something long considered the cornerstone of democracy.
Let's Dial It Back
I would hope that our leaders would never believe that any American desires to make another American an enemy. Let's dial it back.— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) February 17, 2017
Chuck Todd, host of NBC's Meet The Press, urged the president and his administration to rethink their extraordinary rebuke of America's free press.
Is Trump's Tweet A Call To Arms?
We will be very lucky if this ends without a reporter being killed by a Trump supporter out to battle "enemies of the American people"— Tim Carmody (@tcarmody) February 17, 2017
Reporter Tim Carmody encouraged discussion of where Trump's classification of the nation's news media as "enemies of the American people" might end?
I Am My Own Worst Enemy
I am pretty sure I am an American people, too, so am I my own worst enemy help me out here someone— Hayes Brown (@HayesBrown) February 17, 2017
BuzzFeed World News editor Hayes Brown pointed out the flaw in Trump's strategy - the American people's worst enemy are American people.
pardon me here, just gonna wrap myself and our subscribers in the First Amendment— Matt Pearce (@mattdpearce) February 17, 2017
Matt Pearce, national reporter for the Los Angeles Times, sought the comfort and security of the First Amendment. Is there room for me under there, Matt?
The Stuff Of Stalinism
It's one thing for Bannon to foam at the mouth about the press. But what the President just tweeted is the stuff of Stalinism.— Ben White (@morningmoneyben) February 17, 2017
Politico's chief economic correspondent tweeted he felt Trump's latest attack on the media echoed the totalitarian method of rule employed by Joseph Stalin.
No Harm In Being Extra Cautious
I sure hope that media outlets are beefing up their security. pic.twitter.com/pAXvAK0LXc— JJ MacNab (@jjmacnab) February 17, 2017
JJ MacNab hoped news media outlets were taking extra precautions in a tweet that seemed to imply Trump's words could inspire attacks against media outlets.
Like Water Off A Duck's Back
My newsfeed is full of journalists indignant at being called the enemy — let it roll off your backs, people.— Tal Kopan (@TalKopan) February 17, 2017
CNN politics reporter Tal Kopan urged her colleagues to take no offense to Trump's tweet.
Journalism Is A Public Service
Dear Mr. President: we journalists work *for* our fellow Americans. Just like you! We have something in common.— Jacob Soboroff (@jacobsoboroff) February 17, 2017
Journalism is widely considered to be a public service, meaning reporters, editors, and writers all work for the American people, not against them.
When I was a little girl and people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always responded "the enemy of the American people." https://t.co/Aw7c6tobOY— Gabrielle Munoz (@gabrielle_munoz) February 17, 2017
Leave it to Trump to inspire new career goals for hundreds of budding and veteran journalists.
Friend Or Foe?
The irony is that Trump wouldn't be president today if it wasn't for all the help, softballs & free airtime from the 'enemies of the people'— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) February 17, 2017
Due to their near constant coverage of him as a presidential candidate, the media has taken a hefty amount of blame for Trump's political rise.
It's All High School Politics
Donald Trump is like if the bitchiest girl in your middle school became president— Gabriella Paiella (@GMPaiella) February 17, 2017
This isn't the first time someone has drawn a connection between Trump and mean teenage girls.
A Dog Whistle
It's more than a shtick at this point. Now it reads like a dog whistle. https://t.co/81cdlPD6aT— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) February 17, 2017
For some journalists, Trump's latest attack on the press felt less like his usual strategy to delegitimize the media and more like an attempt to send a coded message to a particular subgroup.