President Donald Trump crowned his weekend rage against the news media with a mock video that shows him pummeling a man in a business suit — his face obscured by the CNN logo — outside a wrestling ring.
It was not immediately clear who produced the brief video, which appears to be a doctored version of Trump’s 2007 appearance on World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. The 28-second clip was posted on Trump’s official Twitter account Sunday morning, with the message: “#FraudNewsCNN #FNN.”
Trump, who has branded the media as the “opposition party” and CNN as “fake news,” stayed on the attack later in the day, stating on Twitter that “the dishonest media will NEVER keep us from accomplishing our objectives on behalf of our GREAT AMERICAN PEOPLE!”
On Monday, he continued the attacks on Twitter: “At some point the Fake News will be forced to discuss our great jobs numbers, strong economy, success with ISIS, the border & so much else!”
Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, condemned the video as a “threat of physical violence against journalists.” He said Trump’s tweet was “beneath the office of the presidency.”
The International Federation of Journalists, which represents some 600,000 journalists worldwide, also condemned the tweet. The group’s president, Philippe Leruth, said Monday that “we join the international criticism of such violent and bullying behavior which demeans the office of the president of the United States.”
A White House aide insisted the tweet should not send a chill across the media landscape.
“I think that no one would perceive that as a threat,” homeland security adviser Tom Bossert said. “I hope they don’t. But I do think that he’s beaten up in a way on cable platforms that he has a right to respond to.”
The White House strategy has been to pull no punches when it comes to addressing its critics. On Monday, Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway on Twitter accused Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu of talking “nonsense” when the California lawmaker tweeted to Conway that the media’s role “is not to be ‘patriotic.’ It is to tell the truth.”
Conway tweeted that the “role of the media has been to retract false stories & fire liars. ‘Truth’ = patriotic vets died so you can talk nonsense.”
White House officials traveling with Trump during his weekend stay at his New Jersey golf club did not immediately respond to questions about the video. It appeared to be a doctored version of an appearance Trump made on a World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. show called “Battle of the Billionaires” in 2007, in which Trump appears to attack WWE CEO Vince McMahon.
McMahon’s wife, Linda, who founded and built the company with her husband, now heads the Small Business Administration for Trump and was a donor to his campaign.
The video was posted several days ago by a Reddit user with the title, “Trump takes down fake news.” It was not clear whether that was where it originated or how Trump found it. Still, the user wrote Sunday about being “honored” Trump had tweeted the video. The user who posted the video has a history of posts using anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant language.
The president’s verbal shots against news outlets and individual members of the media have grown increasingly personal in recent days, even as lawmakers in both parties say the insults only threaten to undermine his political agenda.
CNN accused Trump of engaging in “juvenile behavior far below the dignity of his office.”
Associated Press writer Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this report.