WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Trump further escalated his attacks on the news media Friday afternoon when he tweeted that outlets like the New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS and CNN are not his enemy but are "the enemy of the American People."
Although Trump has long colorfully criticized news coverage and sparred with reporters who question him, he had not yet labeled the fourth estate as being an enemy of the country. On the campaign trail, some of Trump's supporters would heckle and threaten reporters who covered his rallies, and his tweet Friday came 24 hours before his first political rally as president.
It took the president two tries to properly post his message, which came soon after he arrived at his luxury, oceanfront estate for the weekend. The first tweet, which was quickly deleted, contained a number of extra spaces and listed the Times, CNN and NBC, ending with this conclusion: "SICK!" The second tweet added ABC and CBS to the list, while removing "SICK!" Both tweets labeled these organizations as being "the fake news media," with "fake news" put into all-caps.
The tweet read: The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!
The media has been credited with breaking stories about Trump's administration that have prompted action this week, including asking for the resignation of his national security adviser Monday and his nominee for labor secretary withdrawing from consideration Wednesday. Meanwhile, the president has berated the press for allegedly distorting facts and not painting a rosy portrait of the country under his leadership. At a news conference at the White House on Thursday, Trump uttered the words "fake news" seven times.
"Much of the media in Washington, D.C. — along with New York, Los Angeles, in particular — speaks not for the people, but for the special interests and for those profiting off a very, very obviously broken system," Trump said early in the news conference, which lasted an hour and 15 minutes. "The press has become so dishonest that if we don't talk about, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous disservice. We have to talk to find out what's going on, because the press honestly is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control."
That night, the Republican Party and Trump's campaign websites posted a "Mainstream Media Accountability Survey" that asked 25 questions that were worded in a way that would never be allowed in a scientific survey. The survey formalized Trump's attacks and his insinuation that media outlets are working against the American people. It's unclear what, if anything, the data will be used for, and participants are required to give their name, email address and Zip code.
The first asks: "Do you believe that the mainstream media has reported unfairly on our movement?" It then asks whether the survey-taker believes that MSNBC, CNN or Fox News "report fairly on Trump's presidency," allowing for answers of "yes," "no" or "no opinion." Those surveyed are also asked their primary source of news, with options limited to those three cable networks, along with "local news." There is no mention of specific newspapers, websites, magazines or non-cable networks.
Other questions ask whether the survey-takers think the media does "due diligence fact-checking before publishing stories on the Trump administration," if it fairly reported on the rollout of Trump's travel ban, if "political correctness has created biased news coverage on both illegal immigration and radical Islamic terrorism" and if the media has been "far too quick to spread false stories about our movement." Participants can also indicate which issues the media does "the worst job of representing Republicans" on, with the option to pick as many topics as they like.
The final question: "Do you believe that our Party should spend more time and resources holding the mainstream media accountable?"
The social media ads driving people to the survey were paid for by the Trump Make America Great Again committee, a joint fundraising committee that splits its proceeds between Trump's campaign and the Republican National Committee. Since Trump's victory, the fundraising committee has continued to pepper supporters with appeals for money, helping keep a steady stream of contributions flowing to both the party and Trump's campaign. By the end of December, Trump had already socked away $7 million into his campaign account, money that officials said they are stockpiling for his 2020 reelection.
Digital fundraising experts said the media accountability survey appeared designed to keep Trump's most loyal supporters engaged. People who fill out the questionnaire are taken to a donation page where they are asked to give between $35 and $2,500 - with the option of making a monthly recurring donation.
"President Trump is asking you to go the extra mile and make a contribution to help defend our movement from the outrageous attacks from the media coming our way," it states. "Contribute now to help us fight back against the media's attacks and deceptions."
Gold reported from Washington.