President Donald J. Trump, with Vice President Mike Pence by his side, speaks about the economy on the South Lawn of the White House on Friday, July 27, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Jabin Botsford—The Washington Post/Getty Images
By Bloomberg
Updated: July 29, 2018 1:11 PM ET

A meeting between Donald Trump and the publisher of the New York Times spilled into a public spat Sunday when the president characterized it as a discussion of “fake news,” and Times Publisher A.G. Sulzberger quickly rejected that account.

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump Had a very good and interesting meeting at the White House with A.G. Sulzberger, Publisher of the New York Times. Spent much time talking about the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, “Enemy of the People.” Sad!

The meeting occurred on July 20, according to the White House. The president has relentlessly disparaged the Times for its White House coverage, which earned the newspaper a Pulitzer Prize this year. And he’s suggested that both the Times and the Washington Post, owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, will soon be out of business.

Sulzberger said he took the meeting with Trump to warn the president about his “dangerous” rhetoric toward the media.

“My main purpose for accepting the meeting was to raise concerns about the president’s deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric,” Sulzberger said Sunday in an emailed statement. “I told the president directly that I thought that his language was not just divisive but increasingly dangerous.”

The Times said it was free to characterize the previously undisclosed off-the-record discussion after the president’s tweet put the meeting on the record.

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump Twitter is getting rid of fake accounts at a record pace. Will that include the Failing New York Times and propaganda machine for Amazon, the Washington Post, who constantly quote anonymous sources that, in my opinion, don’t exist – They will both be out of business in 7 years!

Trump regularly refers to accurate media coverage he doesn’t like as “fake news’’ — a pejorative term that’s caught on with politicians worldwide.

He’s called news reporters the “enemy of the people” or the “enemy of the American people” in speeches and on social media. That includes Sunday’s Twitter message and a tweet one day before the summit in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the leader of what’s regarded as one of the most anti-press regimes in the world.

Trump’s also has branded the Times, a profitable company, as “failing.’’

“I told him that although the phrase ‘fake news’ is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists ‘the enemy of the people,”’ Sulzberger said in the statement. “I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence.”

On June 28, five people were killed in a local newspaper office in Annapolis, Maryland, by a gunman with a long-running grudge against the publication.

The New York Times and other news outlets have decried Trump’s attacks on the press. The White House has maintained that Trump is accessible to the press and complained that news coverage of his administration is overly negative.

“The president regularly meets with members of the media and we can confirm this meeting took place,” Mercedes Schlapp, White House director of strategic communications, said in an emailed statement.

Trump’s administration banned a CNN reporter from an event at the White House last week after she tried to ask the president questions in the Oval Office. The ban led to outcry from other reporters and the White House Correspondents Association.

“This type of retaliation is wholly inappropriate, wrong-headed, and weak,’ ’Olivier Knox, president of the White House Correspondents Association, said in a statement Wednesday. “It cannot stand.”

Sulzberger, 37, took over as publisher of the newspaper in January from his father, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr.

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