Seven weeks before taking the oath of office, President-elect Donald Trump spent part of his Monday night retweeting angry messages about CNN's coverage of his bogus voter fraud claims — including one tweet from a teenager — then continued the tirade into Tuesday morning.
The tweetstorm came one week after Trump met with a group of TV executives and journalists, including CNN President Jeff Zucker, in a session that attendees expected to be part of a peacemaking effort but which turned out to be an airing of grievances against the media. With his latest spray of complaints, Trump has once again shattered any notion that he will tone down his anti-press rhetoric.
This is the approach that got him elected, of course. Still, it's hard to see what an incoming president stands to gain by engaging in the kind of social media trolling most often associated with teenage boys — and inviting the comparison by literally quoting a teenage boy (@Filibuster).
This is hardly Trump's first round of fire at CNN. He told supporters at an August rally in Ohio that "CNN will soon be the least trusted name in news if they continue to be the press shop for Hillary Clinton." On Twitter, he often refers to CNN as the "Clinton News Network." From June until Election Day, he seldom appeared on CNN's air.
Ripping CNN was such a fixture of Trump's campaign that his backers frequently chanted "CNN sucks!" at rallies.
Ironically, media critics not named "Donald Trump" sometimes accused CNN of boosting the real estate mogul's candidacy by airing his events live and employing sympathetic analysts. Zucker told Variety in August that he viewed criticism from both sides as a good sign. "It doesn't bother me," he said. "If everybody is a little upset at the end of the day, we're probably doing our job."
Besides the fact that Trump aimed this particular stream of tweets at CNN, the billionaire's post-election behavior continues to offer journalists clues about how he might conduct himself as president. With few exceptions — a gracious speech on election night; saying he doesn't want to prosecute Hillary Clinton — Trump has shown himself to be a vengeful victor.
Unsatisfied by winning the electoral vote (you know, the one that matters), he seems determined to claim a popular-vote victory, too, by making false assertions about fraudulent ballots.
Unfulfilled by proving his doubters in the media wrong, Trump wants to undermine public confidence in the basic trustworthiness of news reports.
It is theoretically possible that Trump could flip a switch once he is inaugurated, but for now he appears to be signaling to journalists that he will govern the way he campaigned.