President Donald Trump is following through on his threat to take his rhetoric and “tone it up,” again upping his attacks on the media — even as calls arose across the country to turn down the temperature on divisiveness after a week of disturbing violence.
Last week was a scary one in the United States: A Florida man was arrested for sending bombs to 13 prominent Democrats and critics of the president; a white man in Kentucky shot and killed two black people at a grocery store in what appears to have been a racially motivated attack; and a Pittsburgh man killed 11 people in a synagogue in what has been deemed a hate crime.
There has been some suggestion that the president might need to tone things down in light of such events. But after a slight attempt to do so — he tried to be “nice” in campaign rallies this weekend, to limited success — he appears to have decided to ratchet up his rhetoric yet again.
He slammed the press in a pair of tweets on Monday morning, saying the “great anger” in the United States is caused “in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news.” He called the press the “true Enemy of the People” and said that if the media reported the news “accurately” and “fairly,” it would “put out the flame” of anger and outrage. “Fake News Must End!” he wrote.
He also went after the media in a tweet on Sunday, saying the “Fake News is doing everything in their power” to blame Republicans and him for division and hatred in the country and saying it’s actually “fake” and “dishonest” reporting that’s the problem.
And at a North Carolina rally on Friday, Trump decried “political violence,” only to then point the finger at the press, which he said has a “major role to play as far as tone and as far as everything.” His critiques elicited boos from the audience and chants of “CNN sucks.” (CNN received one of the 13 pipe bombs sent last week.)
Trump, who has been trying to stoke fears about Democratic Party mobs, also said that people don’t “blame the Democrat Party every time radical leftists seize and destroy public property and unleash violence and mayhem.”
Could Trump tone it down? Probably. Will he? Apparently not.
Attacks on the media and declaring the press the “enemy of the people” is par for the course for the president, but in the current context, they appear perhaps especially out of place.
Beyond the most recent developments (like CNN being sent a bomb), Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed at the start of the month as part of a plot linked to the country’s government.
While the current streak of violence can’t be directly connected to Trump, there are certainly threads of his rhetoric in recent events.
The Pittsburgh shooting suspect’s social media posts indicate that he believed Jews were at fault for helping transport members of the migrant caravans from Central America that Trump has been stoking fears about for weeks. The mail bomber was a Trump supporter who was vocal about his contempt for the president’s opponents. The president denounced anti-Semitism over the weekend, but in the past, such as in the wake of racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year, he offered a lukewarm response to calls for him to speak out against white nationalism.
Fears and tensions are heightened in the US right now. And it appears the president might not help improve the situation.