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Trump’s anti-press language on Twitter mirrored in violent video created by supporter

October 15, 2019

More than half of the news outlets depicted in a graphic fake video of President Donald Trump assaulting his critics have also been singled out in anti-press tweets published by the president.

In a video shared with The New York Times over the weekend, a fake Trump in a pinstripe suit rampages through a church, shooting, stabbing and assaulting those in the pews, many of whom bear the faces of his political opponents, critics and journalists. As Trump massacres his way through the “Church of Fake News,” the faces of two media figures and the logos of at least 23 news organizations are superimposed on his victims, ranging from Bloomberg and NPR to HuffPost and BuzzFeed, from The Guardian to PBS.

The video was played at one point during a pro-Trump conference from Oct. 10–12, 2019, at the president’s hotel and golf resort near Miami, but has been circulating across the internet since at least July 2018, according to CNN.

Following the Times’ publication and amid national outcry, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham posted a tweet stating that the president had not yet seen the edited scene. “But based upon everything he has heard, he strongly condemns this video,” Grisham wrote.

As of publication, Trump has not personally condemned the video.

A database of Trump’s negative tweets about the press, compiled by U.S. Press Freedom Tracker reporter Stephanie Sugars, finds that 11% of all of his tweets since declaring his candidacy contain negative language about news organizations, specific journalists and the media as a whole.

To date, 13 of the news organizations represented in the video have been mentioned by name in his anti-press tweets.

According to the database, CNN has been directly mentioned in 215 such tweets, NBC in 124 and The Washington Post in 107.

Over the years, Trump has referred to NBC staff as “losers,” “degenerate… Trump haters,” “crazy” and “the enemy of the American People,” and has implied that the station’s broadcasting license should be reevaluated or revoked.

Politico has been featured in 19 of the president’s anti-press tweets, CBS in 16 and Univision in eight.

In August 2015, Trump tweeted, “[Politico] covers me more inaccurately than any other media source, and that is saying something.”

In a statement released on Twitter, White House Correspondents’ Association President Jonathan Karl of ABC News expressed horror at the video: “We have previously told the President his rhetoric could incite violence. Now we call on him and everybody associated with this conference to denounce this video and affirm that violence has no place in our society,” Karl said.

ABC News, which the video depicts being shot in the head by the president, has been featured in 48 of the president’s anti-press tweets.

The two journalists clearly identifiable in the video—Mika Brzezinski and Rachel Maddow, both of MSNBC—have also been featured in Trump’s negative tweets about the press. Trump has directly targeted Maddow four times and Brzezinski 13 times, referring to her as “a neurotic and not very bright mess” and a “very angry Psycho.”

The Times reported that the video’s creation and display at the conference demonstrates how Trump’s anti-press language has influenced his supporters and political allies.

Trump has tweeted and retweeted similar videos in both tone and content—albeit less violent—in the past. In 2017, he received condemnation from media outlets and press freedom advocates after he posted a video of himself participating in WrestleMania, edited to have the CNN logo replacing the face of the man he body slams and beats up.

On Sept. 6 of this year, he tweeted a video that ended with the CNN logo, photoshopped onto an out-of-control vehicle, crashing and bursting into flames.

Despite the news about the video’s placement at the conference breaking over the weekend, Trump has continued to use negative language against the press on social media. Since Sunday, he has posted at least 11 more tweets attacking the media, including ABC News and CNN—both of which were depicted in the graphic video—along with The Times and Fox News’ Chris Wallace and Brian Kilmeade.

Explore the live U.S. Press Freedom Tracker database tracking these tweets—including tweets by year, primary target, and terms like "fake news"—here.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected]

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