President Trump devoted much of Thursday’s press conference, which he called to announce a new nominee for secretary of labor, to attacking the media. He criticized the press in general and had this exchange with CNN’s senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Jim?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, thank you very much. And just for the record, we don’t hate you. I don’t hate you.
ACOSTA: … pass that along.
TRUMP: Ask Jeff Zucker how he got his job.
ACOSTA: If I may follow up on some of the questions that have taken place so far here, sir, and I don’t know which microphone to hold here. I’ve got three microphones.
TRUMP: (INAUDIBLE) people, and your ratings aren’t as good as some of the other people that are waiting (ph).
ACOSTA: They’re pretty good right now, actually, Mr. President.
TRUMP: Go ahead, Jim.
ACOSTA: If I may ask, sir, you said earlier that WikiLeaks was revealing information about the Hillary Clinton campaign during the election cycle. You welcomed that at one campaign rally. You said you loved WikiLeaks. At another campaign press conference, you called on the Russians to find the missing 30,000 e-mails.
I’m wondering, sir, if you —
TRUMP: She’s actually missing 33,000 and then it got extended with a whole —
ACOSTA: Maybe my numbers are off a little bit too.
TRUMP: No, no, but I did say 30, but it was actually higher than that.
ACOSTA: If I may ask you, sir, it sounds as though you do not have much credibility here when it comes to leaking if that is something that you encouraged during the campaign.
TRUMP: (INAUDIBLE). Ready?
ACOSTA: If I may ask you that —
TRUMP: No, no, but let me do one at a time. Do you mind?
ACOSTA: If I may ask a follow-up. Yes, sir.
TRUMP: So in one case, you’re talking about highly classified information. In the other case, you’re talking about John Podesta saying bad things about the boss. I will say this. If John Podesta said this about me, and he was working for me, I would have fired him so fast your head would have spun. He said terrible things about her. But it wasn’t classified information. But in one case you’re talking about classified.
Regardless, if you look at the RNC, we had a very strong — at my suggestion and I give Reince great credit for this — at my suggestion, because I know something about this world, I said I want a very strong defensive mechanism. I don’t want to be hacked. And we did that. And you have seen that they tried to hack us and they failed. The DNC did not do that. And if they did it, they could not have been hacked. But they were and terrible things came in.
And, you know, the only that I think is unfair is some of the things, they were — when I heard some of those things, I picked up the papers the next morning, I said, oh this is going to be front page. It wasn’t even in the papers.
Again, if I had that happen to me, it would be the biggest story in the history of publishing or the head of newspapers. I would have been the headline in every newspaper. I mean, think of it. They gave her the questions to a debate and she should have reported herself. Why didn’t Hillary Clinton announce that I’m sorry, but I have been given the questions to a debate or a town hall, and I feel that it’s inappropriate, and I want to turn in CNN for not doing a good job.
ACOSTA: And if I may follow up that, just something that Jonathan Karl was asking you about. You said that the leaks are real but the news is fake. I guess I don’t understand. It seems that there’s a disconnect there. If the information coming from those leaks is real, then how can the stories be fake?
TRUMP: The reporting is fake.
ACOSTA: And if I may ask — I just want to ask —
TRUMP: Jim, you know what it is? Here’s the thing. The public isn’t — you know, they read newspapers. They see television. They watch. They don’t know if it’s true or false because they’re not involved. I’m involved. I’ve been involved with this stuff all my life. But I’m involved, so I know when you’re telling the truth or when you’re not. I just see many, many untruthful things.
And I’ll tell you what else I see. I see tone. You know, the word tone. The tone is such hatred. I’m really not a bad person, by the way. No, but the tone is such — I do get good ratings; you have to admit that. The tone is such hatred. I watched this morning a couple of the networks, and I have to say, “Fox & Friends” in the morning, they’re very honorable people. They’re very — not because they’re good, because they hit me also when I do something wrong. But they have the most honest morning show. That’s all I can say. It’s the most honest.
But the tone, Jim. If you look — the hatred. I mean, sometimes somebody gets — well, you look at your show that goes on at 10:00 in the evening. You just take a look at that show. That is a constant hit. The panel is almost always exclusive anti-Trump. The good news is he doesn’t have good ratings, but the panel is almost exclusive anti-Trump. And the hatred and venom coming from his mouth. The hatred coming from other people on your network.
Now I will say this, I watch it. I see it. I am amazed by it. And I just think you’d be a lot better off — I honestly do. The public gets it, you know. Look, when I go to rallies, they turn around, they start screaming at CNN. They want to throw their placards at CNN, you know.
I think you’d do much better by being different. But you just take a look. Take a look at some of your shows in the morning and the evening. If a guest comes out and says something positive about me, it’s brutal. Now they’ll take this news conference — I’m actually having a very good time, OK? But they’ll take this news conference — don’t forget, that’s the way I won. Remember, I used to give you a news conference every time I made a speech, which was like every day. OK? No, that’s how I won! I won with news conference and probably speeches. I certainly didn’t win by people listening to you people. That’s for sure.
But I’m having a good time. Tomorrow they’ll say Donald Trump rants and raves at the press. I’m not ranting and raving; I’m just telling you. You know, you’re dishonest people. But — but I’m not ranting and raving. I love this. I’m having a good time doing it. But tomorrow the headlines are going to be Donald trump rants and raves. I’m not ranting and raving.
ACOSTA: If I may just one more follow-up.
TRUMP: Should I let him have a little more? What do you think, Peter?
TRUMP: Peter, should I have — let him have a little bit more —
ACOSTA: Just because of this —
TRUMP: Sit down. Sit down. (INAUDIBLE). We’ll get it.
ACOSTA: Just because the attack of fake news and attacking our network, I just want to ask you, sir —
TRUMP: I’m changing it from fake news, though.
ACOSTA: Doesn’t that undermine —
TRUMP: Very fake news.
ACOSTA: But aren’t you —
TRUMP: Go ahead.
ACOSTA: Real news, Mr. President.
TRUMP: And you’re not related to our new —
ACOSTA: I am not related, sir. I do like the sound of Secretary Acosta, I must say.
TRUMP: You know, I looked at that name. I said wait a minute. Is there any relation there, Alex Acosta?
ACOSTA: I’m sure you checked that out, sir.
TRUMP: No, I checked it. I said — they said, no, sir. I said do me a favor, go back and check the family tree.
ACOSTA: Aren’t you concerned, sir, that you are undermining the people’s faith in the First Amendment, freedom of the press, the press in country, when you call stories you don’t like fake news? Why not just say it’s a story I don’t like?
TRUMP: I do that.
ACOSTA: When you call it fake news, you’re undermining —
TRUMP: No, I do that.
ACOSTA: — confidence in our news media.
TRUMP: No, no. I do that.
ACOSTA: Isn’t that important?
TRUMP: I understand what you’re — and you’re right about that except this.
See, I know when I should get good and when I should get bad. Sometimes they’ll say, wow, that’s going to be a great story. And I’ll get killed. I know what’s good and bad. I’d be a pretty good reporter. Not as good as you.
But I know what’s good. I know what’s bad. And when they change it and make it really bad, something that should be positive — sometimes that should be positive, they’ll make OK. They’ll even make it negative. So I understand it. So — because I’m there. I know what was said, I know who was saying it. I’m there. So it’s very important to me.
Look, I want to see an honest press. And I started off today by saying that it’s so important to the public to get an honest press. The press — the public doesn’t believe you people anymore. Now maybe I had something to do with that. I don’t know. But they don’t believe you. If you were straight and really told it like it is, as Howard Cosell used to say, right? Of course, he had some questions also. But if you were straight, I would be your biggest booster. I would be your biggest fan in the world, including bad stories about me.
But if you go — as an example, you’re CNN, I mean, it’s story after story after story is bad. I won. I won. And the other thing, chaos. There’s zero chaos. We are running — this is a fine-tuned machine. And Reince happens to be doing a good job, but half of his job is putting out lies by the press. You know, I said to him yesterday, this whole Russia scam that you guys are building so that you don’t talk about the real subject, which is illegal leaks. But I watched him yesterday working so hard to try and get that story proper. And I’m saying here’s my chief of staff, a really good guy, did a phenomenal job at RNC. I mean, won the election, right? Won the presidency. We got some senators, we got some — all over the country, you take a look. He’s done a great job.
And I said to myself, you know — and I said somebody to that was in RNC (ph), you take a look at Reince. He’s working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they’re fake. They’re not true. And isn’t that a shame, because he’d rather be working on health care. He’d rather be working on tax reform, Jim. I mean that.
I would be your biggest fan in the world if you treated me right. Now I sort of understand there’s a certain bias maybe by Jeff or somebody, you know, for whatever reason. But — and I understand that, but you’ve got to be at least a little bit fair. And that’s why the public sees it. They see it. They see it’s not fair. You take a look at some of your shows and you see the bias and the hatred. And the public is smart; they understand it.
OK, yeah, go ahead. Go ahead.
CNNMoney (New York) First published February 16, 2017: 2:58 PM ET