During a photo op with White House interns on Monday, President Donald Trump refused to answer questions from Associated Press reporter Catherine Lucey about whether he thinks Attorney General Jeff Sessions should resign or has something he wants to say to the public about health care, instead telling her to be “quiet.”
Trump then turned to the interns and lectured them about how the press isn’t supposed to ask questions.
“They’re not supposed to do that, but they’re doing it, but they’re not supposed to,” he said. “So, she’s breaking — you know, she’s breaking a code, but they don’t care. They don’t care about breaking codes.”
"Do you have a message on health care?"
President Trump, during a photo op with WH interns: "Quiet!" pic.twitter.com/6sgBqSrzwi
— NBC News (@NBCNews) July 24, 2017
As the Washington Post detailed last month, Trump has “has imposed some of the most draconian restrictions on the news media in recent memory, from banning TV cameras during its daily briefings to cutting back the length and frequency of its sessions with reporters. The State Department and Pentagon have made similar cutbacks.”
Trump has only given one full-length press conference since the inauguration. During that press conference, he referred to the media as “fake” roughly 20 times.
While imposing new restrictions on the press, Trump has made a sustained effort to delegitimize any news outlet that covers him critically. He went as far a to call the news media “the enemy of the American People” in a February tweet.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2017
Beyond his antagonism for the press, Trump may have had another reason to dodge Lucey’s health care question: The president has repeatedly revealed himself to be unable to speak about the details of health care policy. During an interview last week, Trump indicated he may not even understand how health insurance works.
I refuse to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, because that would not be politically correct. Instead I will only call her a lightweight reporter!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 27, 2016
Almost exactly a year ago, Trump told NBC’s Katy Tur to “be quiet” during a news conference after she pressed him about if he has “any qualms about asking a foreign government … to hack into a system of anybody’s in this country.” (Trump had just asked Russian hackers to wage cyberattacks on Clinton.)
“Be quiet, I know you want to, you know, save her,” Trump said.
That wasn’t even the first time Trump attacked Tur. During a rally in December 2015, Trump mocked her, referring to her as “Little Katy, third-rate journalist.” Following Trump’s personal attack, Tur said the Secret Service took the “extraordinary” step of walking her to her car.