Donald Trump threw haymakers at CNN and BuzzFeed during Wednesday's long-awaited news conference, hitting the outlets he referred to as "garbage" and "fake news" for their coverage of unconfirmed claims that Russia attempted to compromise the president-elect.
Things got interesting when CNN's Jim Acosta refused to just stand there and take Trump's shots. The ensuing tussle put the billionaire's combative style on full display and, just nine days before his inauguration, perhaps foreshadowed an era of testy presidential news conferences — assuming Trump holds them on a regular basis, which is no guarantee.
Trump seemed particularly upset that one of his attorneys, Michael Cohen, was named in a document published Tuesday night by BuzzFeed that the site said was prepared by "a person who is understood to be a former British intelligence agent." The document, summarized by U.S. intelligence chiefs during briefings last week with Trump and President Obama, alleged that Cohen met with Russian officials in Prague last summer.
Cohen denied having ever traveled to Prague, and CNN — which was first to report the Trump and Obama briefings but did not publish the full, unverified document — reported Wednesday morning that the meeting involved a different Michael Cohen.
In a statement to The Washington Post's Erik Wemple, CNN sought to distinguish its coverage from BuzzFeed's.
Nevertheless, Trump seemed to blame CNN for smearing Cohen.
This is how things played out when Acosta tried to ask a question:
TRUMP: As far as BuzzFeed, which is a failing pile of garbage, writing it, I think they're going to suffer the consequences. They already are. And as far as CNN going out of their way to build it up — and by the way, we just found out [as] I was coming down ... it was a different Michael Cohen they were talking about. All night long, it's Michael Cohen. I said I want to see your passport. He brings his passport to my office. I say, hey, wait a minute. He didn't leave the country. He wasn't out of the country. They had Michael Cohen of the Trump Organization was in Prague. It turned out to be a different Michael Cohen. It's a disgrace what took place. It's a disgrace, and I think they out to apologize, to start with, [to] Michael Cohen.
ACOSTA: Sir, since you're attacking us, can you give us a question?
TRUMP: (To another reporter) Go ahead.
ACOSTA: Since you're ...
ACOSTA: Mr. President-elect ...
TRUMP: No. Go ahead. Go ahead.
ACOSTA: Mr. President-elect, since you are attacking our news organization ...
TRUMP: No, not you. Not you.
ACOSTA: ... can you give us a chance?
TRUMP: Your organization is terrible. Your organization is terrible.
ACOSTA: You are attacking our news organization. Can you give us a chance to ask a question, sir?
TRUMP: Go ahead.
ACOSTA: Sir ...
TRUMP: Quiet. Quiet.
ACOSTA: Mr. President-elect, can you say categorically ...
TRUMP: Go ahead. She's asking a question. Don't be rude.
ACOSTA: Mr. President-elect, can you give us a question? You're attacking us. Can you give us a question.
TRUMP: Don't. Be. Rude. No, I'm not going to give you a question. I'm not going to give you a question. You are fake news.
Acosta's final remark was that Trump's refusal to call on him was "not appropriate." Afterward, incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer reportedly told Acosta that he was not appropriate.
Acosta's fellow journalists backed him in droves, however, illustrating once again the rift between Trump's view of the media and the media's view of itself.