Early on Sunday morning, President Trump tweeted a WrestleMania GIF to attack CNN, continuing his criticism of the mainstream news media that seemed to dominate his holiday-weekend messages. "The fake media is trying to silence us," the president said on Saturday at a rally in Washington D.C., according to The New York Times. Trump's tweet early Sunday morning did not mention the Times, but it boldly called out CNN, labeling the cable news network as "fraud news."
The tweet, shared by President Trump shortly before 6:30 a.m. EST on Sunday morning, includes a GIF of a wrestling match. A CNN logo was superimposed over a person's head. Then, the GIF appears to show Trump tackling the photoshopped CNN figure to the ground and beating him.
The GIF appears to have come from an old WrestleMania event, where Trump attacked WWE chairman Vince McMahon. WrestleMania 23, which occurred in 2007, pitted Trump and McMahon against each other. They each reportedly put up a wrestler, with the losing businessman having his head shaved. Trump, who managed to throw a few punches himself, apparently won. The video of the now-president beating someone up may be startling enough, but the addition of a CNN logo and the hashtag "Fraud News CNN" only made the message more troubling.
In response to the unsettling tweet, CNN accused the president of encouraging "violence against reporters." The news outlet also called the tweet "juvenile behavior far below the dignity of his office." The statement appeared on Twitter about an hour after the president's tweet went live.
Trump's Sunday morning tweet followed up a speech on Saturday at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where Trump also stoked his feud with the media. "The fake media tried to stop us from going to the White House," he reportedly said. "But I'm president, and they're not." His speech coincided with a series of tweets condemning the "fake and fraudulent news media." In his tweets, the president justified his controversial use of social media as "modern day presidential."
The president's feud with the so-called "fake" media has boiled since the early days of his presidential campaign. During his primary campaign, Trump blocked certain news outlets from covering his campaign stops. According to The Hill, those roadblocks were the result of unfavorable coverage of the then-candidate. As president-elect, Trump broke with tradition by forgoing a press pool on his private jet.
The feud isn't just between Trump and CNN, either. It also seems to permeate his administration. Last week, for example, Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders criticized the media during a press briefing. "News outlets get to go on day after day and cite unnamed sources, use stories without sources ... [and] have reporters resign," she said. In response, journalist Brian Karem called Huckabee Sanders' comments "inflammatory."
Huckabee Sanders' words may have angered members of the media, but Trump's message on Sunday morning seemed even more serious, as it clearly showed a threat of violence against the media. The White House's relationship with the media is not mandated by any law, but it's a tradition that stems from the Constitution's First-Amendment promise of a free press. Now, the Trump administration seems committed to turning the tables on a time-honored American institution.