President Donald Trump has made no secret of his war with the press, and he’s beginning to face some fierce opposition—even from the outlets he purportedly likes.
In an interview aired on Fox News Sunday, anchor Chris Wallace grilled Trump’s Chief of Staff Reince Priebus over his boss’ recent statement on Twitter calling the media the “enemy of the American people.”
Priebus said Trump was referring to specific articles claiming that the president’s campaign staff had had frequent contact with Russian intelligence agents leading up to the election and the inauguration. (The Chief of Staff also made an appearance on Meet the Press on Sunday evening, during which he blasted the original report, published by the New York Times citing anonymous intelligence officials, as “grossly overstated and inaccurate.”)
That didn’t satisfy Wallace.
“Reince, here’s the problem: I don’t have any problem with you complaining about an individual story,” he said. “We sometimes get it wrong, you guys sometimes get it wrong. I don’t have any problem with you complaining about bias. But the president went a lot further than that. ”
“He said that the ‘fake media,’ not certain stories, the ‘fake media,’ are an enemy to the country,” Wallace continued as Priebus kept at his attempt to downplay Trump’s remarks. “We don’t have a state-run media in this country. That’s what they have in dictatorships.”
Priebus resisted Wallace’s relentless grilling. He claimed the media was flooded with “garbage” about Russian spies in the wake of the NYT article, and suggested that reporters should focus more on positive stories about the administration.
“You don’t get to tell us what to do, Reince,” Wallace fired back over him. “You don’t get to tell us what to do any more than Barack Obama did. Barack Obama whined about Fox News all the time, but I’ve got to say, he never said we were an enemy of the people.”
In a bizarre press conference last week, Trump displayed his disdain for the fourth estate in no subtle terms, claiming the media had “become so dishonest,” and that “the press honestly is out of control.” While it is by no means the first time Trump has attacked the press, his remarks over the past few days have even begun to alienate some of his Republican colleagues.
Senator John McCain spoke out forcefully against Trump’s branding of the press as “enemies” on NBC’s Meet the Press. “If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and, at many times, adversarial press,” McCain said, adding that “without it, that’s how dictators get started.”
The adversarial relationship between the White House and the media has also been reflected in the refusal or reluctance of some networks to book Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway for interviews.