President was campaigning for Senate candidate but continued his increasingly alarming verbal vendetta
Donald Trump ramped up his attack on the media on Thursday night, criticizing the press as fake, fake, disgusting news and describing journalists in attendance as horrible, horrendous people, despite UN experts warning earlier in the day that his actions were putting journalists at risk.
Nominally appearing in Wilkes-Barre, in Pennsylvania, to support a Republican candidate for the US Senate, Trump instead spent more than 15 minutes listing a series of grievances with the press, inducing angry chanting from the crowd towards the assembled media.
The president angrily attacked the medias coverage of a range of topics including his 2016 election victory, his meeting with Kim Jong-un of North Korea, his meeting with Vladimir Putin, his meeting with Nato, and finally his meeting with the Queen in July.
Trumps most intense criticisms came during an anecdote about the latter. Trump said he and the Queen got along fantastically well and enjoyed good chemistry, but told the thousands-strong crowd that the fake news had instead reported that he turned up late.
They can make anything bad. Because they are the fake, fake, disgusting news, Trump said.
The insult prompted wild applause, as did his series of other denunciations of the press, which Trump continued despite widely shared videos showing the crowd at a Trump rally in Florida on Tuesday using aggressive language and gestures towards the CNN correspondent Jim Acosta.
During the middle of his speech on Thursday Trump pointed to the press area in the middle of the arena as he recalled the skepticism around his chances of victory in November 2016.
Even these people back there, these horrible, horrendous people, Trump said, would agree there has never been anything like what happened in November, Trump said.
Earlier in the day UN experts had warned that Trumps rhetoric could increase the risk of journalists being targeted with violence, while his daughter, Ivanka Trump, said that, unlike her father, she does not consider the media the enemy of the people.
The level of hostility on Tuesday had been such that Acosta later tweeted that he was very worried that the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media will result in somebody getting hurt. On Thursday Acosta had clashed with White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, repeatedly asking if she disagreed with Trumps view of the press as the enemy of the people. Huckabee-Sanders declined to answer.
Trump was appearing at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, in a bid to boost Lou Barletta, a congressman running for the Senate. Barletta was one of the first members of Congress to endorse Trump for president and has remained a firm supporter.
Barletta is currently trailing his opponent, the incumbent Democrat Bob Casey, by an average of 16 points in the polls, and had just $1.6m cash on hand at the end of June compared with Caseys $9.9m.
Bartlettas campaign said Trumps appearance had been an immediate success, prompting a swathe of donations, but the lasting memory of Trumps appearance is likely to be his sustained attacks on the free press.
During his lengthy diatribe Trump referenced his meeting with North Koreas Kim Jong-un which was widely criticized as having achieved little in furthering his characterization of the media and fake news. Trump claimed he had returned to DC from the Singapore summit and told his wife, Melania, that he was excited to see the media coverage.
I just stopped missiles from being launched every two seconds, Trump quoted himself as saying to his wife.
And baby, I got the hostages back, Trump said. And you know what, honey, theyre not testing any more nuclear.
Oh the media is gonna finally treat me so good, Trump recalled himself saying. Im looking forward to waking up tomorrow and reading those dying papers.
Instead, Trump said, he faced only negativity from the fake news.
Turning to his widely criticized meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Trump again said the coverage had been unfair. They wanted me to go up and have a boxing match, he said of the medias reporting of his cowed performance alongside Putin, as the crowd roared.
The crowd was particularly hostile to CNN of whom Trump has been most critical but as the president continued his lengthy aside the angry boos, shouts and downturned thumbs were directed to almost all of the journalists packed inside the small media zone.
Whatever happened to fair press? the president lamented towards the end of his speech. Whatever happened to honest reporting? One thing both the crowd and the media could likely agree on is that, given his performance on Thursday, Trumps war with the media is far from over.