President Trump teed off on the media Wednesday during an event held to mark Black History Month, calling CNN “fake news” and once again decrying a false report that he had removed a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office.
Trump’s remarks came at the top of what was billed as a “listening session” at which he sat at a conference table in the Roosevelt Room with a group of African Americans, most of whom had played a role in his campaign for president or worked on the transition.
Trump soon turned to a false report by a Time magazine writer that on his Inauguration Day a bust of King had been removed from the Oval Office. Trump and his aides have repeatedly cited the incident as evidence of media bias, despite an immediate acknowledgment of the error and an apology from the reporter.
“Somebody said I took the statue out of my office,” Trump said. “And it turned out that that was fake news. Fake news. The statue is cherished. … It was never even touched, so I think it was a disgrace, but that’s the way the press is. Very unfortunate.”
Trump later said that he didn’t watch CNN, calling the network “fake news.” By contrast, he said, “Fox has treated me very nice.”
Trump also repeated an earlier assessment, first made by White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon, that the media is “the opposition party.”
“A lot of the media actually is the opposition party,” the president said. “They’re so biased, and really it’s a disgrace. Some of the media is fantastic and fair, but so much of the media is opposition party, knowingly saying incorrect things.”
Trump noted he had won the election, suggesting that that was evidence the media might not “have the influence they think.”
“But they really need to straighten out their act,” Trump said. “They’re very dishonest people.”
During the event, Trump also thanked those around the table for helping him exceed his expectations with African American voters.
“If you remember, I wasn’t going to do well with the African American community,” Trump said. “We ended up getting substantially more than candidates who had run in the past years, and now we’re going to take that to new levels.”
Exit polls showed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton overwhelmingly won African American votes over Trump, 89 percent to 8 percent. In 2012, exit polls showed that then-President Barack Obama garnered 93 percent of the black vote compared with Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s 6 percent.
Trump profusely thanked Ben Carson, his pick to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development, for his help during the campaign.
“I’d go around with Ben to a lot of different places I wasn’t so familiar with,” Trump said.
Trump also put in a plug for the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, ticking off a number of those honored there.
Among those he mentioned was Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist and former slave who died in 1895. Trump cited Douglass as “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.”
“Big impact,” Trump said of those featured in the museum.
“I’m proud to honor this heritage and will be honoring it more and more,” Trump said.