President Donald Trump — a notorious enemy of the American press, and, apparently, free speech — has escalated his own disgraceful behavior with a tweet so ugly, so disturbing, that some argue it could potentially endanger lives. On Sunday, the president of the United States shared with his millions of followers a video of himself attacking another man at what appears to be a pro-wrestling match. The short clip has been edited, though, so that CNN's logo is superimposed over the man's head. And this would be laughably pathetic if Trump's latest tweet about CNN weren't so, so dangerous. In his sloppy, ham-fisted, and in inexcusably reckless style, Trump just showed the world that he's spending his Fourth of July weekend as the leader of the free world openly advocating for physical violence against journalists.
There's no other way to interpret this shameful tweet posted by a man who has dominated a days-long news cycle spewing inflammatory rhetoric about journalists and the organizations for which they work. But the short video clip — likely a vestige of Trump's long and storied relationship with the WWE — really takes his his long-held vendetta against the news media to the next level. It's hard to overstate just how profoundly disconcerting it is to witness the president overtly threatening a news organization in such blatant and crass terms. (Romper has reached out to the White House press office for comment and is awaiting a response.)
Trump launched the latest chapter in his ongoing war with the news media when he attacked the the hosts of the MSNBC talk show Morning Joe, Mike Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, on Twitter because she didn't appreciate their coverage of him — and earned himself condemnation from the left and right alike for his sexist depiction of Brzezinski. In the aftermath, he defended his use of social media in yet another lighting round of tweets, claiming on Saturday night that "The FAKE & FRAUDULENT NEWS MEDIA is working hard to convince Republicans and others I should not use social media" and insisting he'd had to triumph over "#FakeNews" in order to secure the presidency.
He wrapped up the tirade by announcing to all the world that he was "thinking about changing the name #FakeNews CNN to #FraudNewsCNN!" And "#FraudNewsCNN" is exactly the hashtag he used in the tweet containing the video, along with the acronym "#FNN." Call me crazy, but I think maybe the president should learn about health care instead of coming up with nicknames for media outlets.
Earlier that day, Trump had used Twitter to celebrate the fact that three CNN staffers had resigned over a retracted story that connected a Trump transition team member to the investigation over Russia's meddling in the U.S. election.
Trump's near-constant belittling of the media amounts to more than a 71-year-old man engaging in bizarre name-calling. His repeated verbal attacks on MSNBC/NBC reporter Katy Tur during the campaign resulted in her requiring Secret Service protection as she worked to cover his bid for the White House. That's because the words of a man with the visibility, clout, and diehard base of supporters that Trump does carry real consequences: Even though Trump may have no real intention of actually attempting to harm those that he singles out on Twitter and in his public speeches, his base is undeniably taking their cues from him.
Take, for example, the fact that the country experienced a noticeable uptick in hate crimes against racial and religious minorities after Trump won the election last year. His rhetoric against groups like immigrants and Muslims had emboldened his supporters to act on their basest desires by helping to tear down the taboo against openly denigrating non-white or non-Christian people. And post-Trump violence against journalists has already begun to emerge — such as when someone shot out the windows of the office of a newspaper in Kentucky in May, for example.
Trump's Sunday morning tweet not only encourages others to go after reporters who are simply doing their jobs and exercising their First Amendment rights, but it shows him doing just that — even if that's only thanks to a janky video editing job. Trump's decision to post this video on social media could act as nothing less than a call to action for his most fervent supporters, and that is absolutely unacceptable behavior from the president. Sadly, though, it's exactly what the world has come to expect.