clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

“The president’s going to continue to fight back”: White House defends Trump’s media attacks

Sarah Sanders defended Trump’s assertion that the media is the “enemy of the people” even as many have hoped he’ll tone down his language.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders delivers a press briefing in October 2018.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders delivers a press briefing in October 2018.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Emily Stewart covers business and economics for Vox and writes the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

After a week that included shootings at a Pittsburgh synagogue and a Kentucky grocery store and multiple pipe bombs being sent to President Trump’s critics, the White House is continuing to insist that any division in America is the media’s fault.

In a briefing with reporters on Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defended Trump’s continued heightened rhetoric. (Trump once again called the media the “enemy of the people” Monday morning.) She said he “wants to find ways to bring our country together” in moments of crisis but wasn’t stop his attacks on his opponents.

“The president’s going to continue to fight back,” Sanders said.

She denied he’s placing blame on the media, despite the fact that he has on multiple occasions. She was pressed on a tweet from former Homeland Security press secretary David Lapan, earlier in the day declaring that the press is “NOT the enemy of the American people.”

Sanders said that the president is not referencing “all media” as the enemy of the people, but rather is calling out “the growing amount of fake news that exists in the country.”

Jim Acosta, a journalist at CNN, asked Sanders which outlets the president considers the enemy of the people.

“I’m not going to walk through a list, but I think those individuals probably know who they are,” she said.

When Acosta asked her whether she and the president meant CNN, which has been sent three pipe bombs over the past week, including one on Monday, she said it’s “not necessarily specific to a generalization of a full outlet at times” but instead “individuals that the president would be referencing.”

Sanders appeared especially incensed by some suggestions that some of the rhetoric and divisiveness coming out of the White House might be tied to some of the violence over the past week.

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. Trump 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.

“It’s irresponsible for news organizations like yours to blame responsibility of a pipe bomb that was not sent by the president, not just blame the president, but blame members of his administration for those heinous acts,” she said. “I think that is outrageous.”

Sanders was also asked about why Trump continues to attack figures such as California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at his rallies, even though both were among those sent pipe bombs in the mail. As she did with the media, she tried to shift blame, in part, back onto them.

“Let’s not forget that these same Democrats have repeatedly attacked the president,” she said, name-checking remarks made by former Attorney General Eric Holder, who also was sent a bomb, as well as Clinton and Waters. “The president’s going to continue to fight back when these individuals not only attack him but attack members of his administration and supporters of his administration.”

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.