President Trump opened his press conference Wednesday by declaring that the election had been “a big day, an incredible day.” Playing up Republicans’ hold of the Senate while largely ignoring the fact they lost control of the House, he cast his party as having been disadvantaged in every way, including “very hostile media coverage to put it mildly.”
Despite framing the election as a success, Trump appeared quite angry throughout the conference, lashing out at journalists for trying to get answers from him.
In one early heated moment, CNN’s Jim Acosta asked Trump about the way he framed the migrant caravan as an invasion, rejecting the premise that a group of refugees hundreds of miles away would be climbing walls as Trump’s ads had portrayed them. “Honestly, I think that you should let me run the country,” Trump responded. “You run CNN. And if you did it well, your ratings will be much higher.”
As many other reporters had been doing at the presser, Acosta attempted to ask a second question about the Russia investigation, but Trump cut him off. “I tell you what, CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them,” he said. “You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN… You are a very rude person; the way you treat [Press Secretary] Sarah Huckabee [Sanders] is horrible.”
NBC’s Peter Alexander, who was queued up to ask the next question, came to Acosta’s defense as being a diligent reporter. “Well, I’m not a big fan of yours either so, to be honest,” Trump lashed out.
At this point, Acosta stood back up and called out the fact that the president had called CNN “the enemy of the people” and the network was then targeted with a pipe bomb attack. “Well when you report fake news, which CNN does a lot,” Trump doubled down, “you are the enemy of the people.”
At another point, various reporters attempted to shout questions related to voter suppression. “I’ll give you voter suppression,” Trump sneered. “Take a look at the CNN polls — how inaccurate they were. That’s called voter suppression.”
April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks attempted to ask a related question about Georgia, where voters had to wait in line for hours, voter rolls were massively purged, and tens of thousands of voter registrations were put on hold by Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who was himself running for governor. But Trump shot her down, saying, “Would you please sit down?”
Interrupting the next journalist’s question, Trump added, “It’s such a hostile media. It’s so sad. You ask me — no, you rudely interrupted him. You rudely interrupted him.”
Despite taking questions on a variety of topics for well over an hour, Trump gave very few concrete answers about his plans for moving forward on any number of issues. He did, however, stand by his demonizing rhetoric and said he had no regrets about his anti-immigration that even Fox News thought was too racist to air.
When asked if he would change his tone to work with the Democrats who now control the House, he blamed the media for not being able to do so. “I’d be very good at a low tone,” he claimed. “But when things are done not correctly about you — written about you, said about you — on television or wherever it is, you have to defend yourself.”
“I would love to have a very even, modest, boring tone,” he added. “I would be very honored by that, but you know what? When you have to fight — all the time fight —because you are being misrepresented by the media, you really cannot do that.”
When the reporter tried to clarify he was asking about Congress, not the media, the president moved on.
Shortly after the press conference, CNN put out a statement condemning Trump’s behavior. “This President’s ongoing attacks on the press have gone too far. They are not only dangerous, they are disturbingly un-American,” the network wrote.
“While President Trump has made it clear he does not respect a free press, he has a sworn obligation to protect it. A free press is vital to democracy, and we stand behind Jim Acosta and his fellow journalists everywhere.”
This story was updated to include CNN’s response to the president’s press conference.