The president's animus against CNN is well-documented, but on Wednesday morning it also appeared to be poorly timed. Hours after a pipe bomb forced the evacuation of CNN offices, a Trump campaign email criticized the network, accusing it of spreading "fake news," and asking recipients to participate in a "media accountability survey."
Trump campaign chief Brad Parscale issued an apology statement to CNN for the timing of the email a few hours later. "The email went out today unfortunately was a pre-programmed, automated message that was not caught before the news broke," he said. "We in no way condone violence against anyone who works for CNN or anyone else."
The campaign's email was signed by Lara Trump, the president's daughter-in-law, with the subject line, "It felt like...," a reference to CNN's chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta saying, "It felt like we weren't in America anymore," after being heckled at a Trump rally in Florida over the summer.
"I have some breaking news for CNN," the email says. "That is the real America that exists outside of the liberal bubble." The message goes on to tell supporters that the media needs a "wake-up call" to fight back against "fake news' attacks and bias against hardworking Americans." The "media accountability survey," included in the email asks the question "Do you trust the mainstream media to put the interests of Americans first?" with the response options "Yes," "No," "No Opinion," and "Other."
As part of a series of terrorism attempts against Democratic leaders, pipe bombs were also sent to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on Wednesday and to the home of liberal billionaire and philanthropist George Soros on Monday. None of the explosives detonated, and the FBI is currently investigating the incidents. The package addressed to CNN arrived by courier, according to The New York Times, addressed to John Brennan, President Obama's CIA director who had his security clearance revoked by the Trump White House in August after repeatedly criticizing the president. It also reportedly bore the return address of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former DNC chairwoman.
In a statement on Wednesday, the president condemned the acts, and called for Americans to "unify." "Threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America," he added.
Trump's fraught relationship with the media is well-documented, and Wednesday's campaign email is not the first time he has pushed a "media accountability survey." Surveys issued in the past have been criticized for being biased against the media and Democrats. "Do you feel that the media is too eager to slur conservatives with baseless accusations of racism and sexism?" one poll asked the Trump campaign email list in May.
More neutral survey sources, including Gallup polling and research from the Knight Foundation, have in fact shown that American trust in the media is lower than in previous years — and Trump is not afraid to take credit for it.
"You know why I do it?" he reportedly told Lesley Stahl in an interview following the election. "I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe it."