July 3, 2017 - Updated on July 5, 2017

US - #WeeklyAddress June 26-July 2: President promotes violence against the press

This week took an extremely worrisome turn when President Donald Trump tweeted a video depicting violence against a media outlet. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is increasingly alarmed by Trump’s apparent loss of control over his anti-press rhetoric.

Instead of joking about beating up journalists for coverage he doesn’t like, President Trump should assume behavior worthy of his office and focus on attacking and solving the world’s most serious problems,” says Margaux Ewen, Director of Advocacy and Communications for RSF’s North America Bureau. “At a time when reporters around the world are risking their lives every day to report the news, it is absolutely unacceptable that violence against them should be promoted by any public figure, let alone the President of the country of the First Amendment. Trump’s behavior could be seen as encouraging to the world’s Press Freedom Predators who seek to further clamp down on a free and independent press through violence and targeted killings.”

1. Trump tweets violent wrestling video targeting CNN

On Sunday July 2, President Donald trump tweeted a 28-second video in which he could be seen wrestling and violently punching a figure whose head was replaced by the CNN logo. The video ends with a restyled CNN logo, “FNN: Fraud News Network.” The video caused controversy and was met with criticism and disbelief. Many journalists perceived the video as a call to violence against the media, recalling then-congressional candidate Greg Gianforte’s recent assault charge against Ben Jacobs of the Guardian in May. Though the administration did not respond to requests for comment on the tweet, President Trump’s homeland security advisor Thomas Bossert remarked “No one would perceive that as a threat. I hope they don’t.”

2. Trump insults Mika Brzezinski on twitter

On Thursday morning, June 29, President Donald Trump tweeted an insult at Mika Brzezinksi and Joe Scarborough, hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” writing that when they “insisted” on joining Trump at Mar-a-Lago around New Year’s Eve, “low I.Q. Crazy Mika” was “bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!” Trump’s tweets evoked strong responses throughout the nation from both politicians and members of the press. A number of Republican lawmakers tweeted and spoke out against his comments. Among them, Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted: “Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America.” During the next day’s White House press briefing Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders spent half of the briefing answering questions from reporters regarding the incident and attempting to defend the president’s remarks: “Look again I think that the president is pushing back against people who attack him, day after day after day. Where is the outrage on that.”

On Friday, June 30, Mika and Joe wrote in a Washington Post editorial that White House staff members warned them this year that the National Enquirer was going to publish a negative article about them if they didn’t stop insulting the President on their morning show. President Trump denied this by tweeting “FAKE NEWS,” but Scarborough fired back. “I have texts from your top aides and phone records,” he wrote in a Tweet directed at Trump.

On Saturday, July 1, Trump again resumed his attacks against Brzezinksi and Scarborough on twitter: “Crazy Joe Scarborough and dumb as a rock Mika are not bad people, but their low rated show is dominated by their NBC bosses. Too bad!”

3. Trump targets “fake media” during speech

President Trump delivered a speech on Saturday, July 1 in which he once again denounced the media as dishonest. Addressing the crowd at a concert to honor veterans at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, Trump said, “The fake media is trying to silence us, but we will not let them. Because the people know the truth. The fake media tried to stop us from going to the White House. But I’m president and they’re not.” That same day, President Trump tweeted, “The FAKE & FRAUDULENT NEWS MEDIA is working hard to convince Republicans and others I should not use social media - but remember, I won...the 2016 election with interviews, speeches and social media. I had to beat #FakeNews, and did. We will continue to WIN!” The tweet was followed by another jab at CNN, in which he wrote “I am thinking about changing the name #FakeNews CNN to #FraudNewsCNN!”

The United States ranks 43rd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index after falling 2 places in the last year.

For the latest updates, follow RSF on twitter @RSF_en.