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Trump calls the media ‘the enemy of the American People’

Reporters raise their hands at President Trump's news conference Feb. 16. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

WEST PALM BEACH. Fla. — President Trump further escalated his attacks on the news media Friday afternoon when he tweeted that outlets such as the New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS and CNN are not his enemy but “the enemy of the American People.”

Although Trump has long colorfully criticized news coverage and sparred with reporters who question him, he had not yet labeled the fourth estate as being an enemy of the country. On the campaign trail, some of Trump's supporters would heckle and threaten reporters who covered his rallies, and his tweet Friday came 24 hours before his first political rally as president.

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It took the president two tries to properly post his message, which came soon after he arrived at his luxury oceanfront estate for the weekend. The first tweet, which was quickly deleted, contained a number of extra spaces and listed the Times, CNN and NBC, ending with this conclusion: “SICK!” The second tweet added ABC and CBS to the list, while removing “SICK!” Both tweets labeled those organizations as being “the FAKE NEWS media.”

The media has been credited with breaking stories about Trump's administration that have prompted action this week, including the resignation of his national security adviser Monday and his nominee for labor secretary withdrawing from consideration Wednesday. Meanwhile, the president has accused the press of distorting facts and berated it for not painting a rosy portrait of the country under his leadership. At a news conference at the White House on Thursday, Trump uttered the words “fake news” seven times.

President Trump berated the media repeatedly at his press conference on Feb. 16, calling CNN and other outlets "very fake news." (Video: Video: Reuters / Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

“Much of the media in Washington, D.C. — along with New York, Los Angeles, in particular — speaks not for the people but for the special interests and for those profiting off a very, very obviously broken system,” Trump said early in the news conference, which lasted over an hour and 15 minutes. “The press has become so dishonest that if we don't talk about, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous disservice. We have to talk to find out what's going on, because the press honestly is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.”

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Thursday night, the Republican Party and Trump's campaign websites posted a 25-question “Mainstream Media Accountability Survey.” The survey formalized Trump's attacks and his insinuation that media outlets are working against the American people. It's unclear what, if anything, the data will be used for, and participants are required to give their name, email address and Zip code.

The first question asks: “Do you believe that the mainstream media has reported unfairly on our movement?” It then asks whether the survey-taker believes that MSNBC, CNN or Fox News “report fairly on Trump's presidency,” allowing for answers of “yes,” “no” or “no opinion.” Those surveyed are also asked their primary source of news, with options limited to those three cable networks, along with “local news.” There is no mention of specific newspapers, websites, magazines or non-cable networks.

Other questions ask whether the survey-takers think the media does “due diligence fact-checking before publishing stories on the Trump administration,” whether it fairly reported on the rollout of Trump's travel ban, whether “political correctness has created biased news coverage on both illegal immigration and radical Islamic terrorism” and whether the media has been “far too quick to spread false stories about our movement.” Participants can also indicate which issues the media does “the worst job of representing Republicans” on, with the option to pick as many topics as they like.

The final question: “Do you believe that our Party should spend more time and resources holding the mainstream media accountable?”

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The social-media ads driving people to the survey were paid for by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a joint fundraising committee that splits its proceeds between Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee. Since Trump’s victory, the fundraising committee has continued to pepper supporters with appeals for money, helping keep a steady stream of contributions flowing to the party and Trump’s campaign. By the end of December, Trump had already socked away $7 million into his campaign account, money that officials said they are stockpiling for his 2020 reelection effort.

Digital fundraising experts said the media accountability survey appeared designed to keep Trump’s most loyal supporters engaged. People who fill out the questionnaire are taken to a donation page where they are asked to give between $35 and $2,500 — with the option of making a monthly recurring donation.

“President Trump is asking you to go the extra mile and make a contribution to help defend our movement from the outrageous attacks from the media coming our way,” it states. “Contribute now to help us fight back against the media’s attacks and deceptions.”

The president spoke to and took questions from reporters at the White House for more than an hour, Feb. 16. Here are key moments from that event. (Video: Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Gold reported from Washington.