President-elect Donald Trump strode to a podium in his eponymous tower Wednesday and promptly told reporters that he thinks he “probably, maybe won the [Republican] nomination because of news conferences.”
He loves us.
In the very next breath, Trump said that he “stopped giving them because we were getting quite a bit of inaccurate news.”
He loves us not.
So it goes with the incoming headliner-in-chief, who recognizes the role that nonstop media coverage played in his successful campaign yet also calls journalists “the lowest form of life.” From the outset of Trump's first news conference in 168 days, his love-hate relationship with the press was on full display.
After explaining his evolving position on news conferences, Trump professed his gratitude for the way most outlets have covered unproven claims that Russia attempted to gather damaging personal and financial information about him in an effort to gain leverage. Trump went on at length:
I want to thank a lot of the news organizations here today because they looked at that nonsense that was released by maybe the intelligence agencies — who knows, but maybe the intelligence agencies, which would be a tremendous blot on their record, if they in fact did that, a tremendous blot, because a thing like that should’ve never been written, it should never have been had, and it should certainly never have been released.
But I want to thank a lot of the news organizations — some of whom have not treated me very well over the years, a couple in particular — but they came out so strongly against that fake news and the fact that it was written about by primarily one group and one television station. So I just want to compliment many of the people in the room.
I have great respect for the news and great respect for freedom of the press and all of that, but I will tell you there were some news organizations, with all that was just said, that were so professional — so incredibly professional — and that I’ve just gone up a notch, as to what I think of you. Okay? All right.
To be clear, no credible media outlet has characterized the claims about Trump and Russia as “fake news.” Allegations about a Russian plot to target Trump were part of real intelligence briefings delivered last week to Trump and President Obama. But many outlets have covered the unconfirmed claims with great skepticism, and Trump indicated that he appreciates their fairness.
How nice. At another point during the news conference, Trump said that his plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act was “pretty accurately reported today [in] the New York Times,” a newspaper whose coverage he often rails against.
You get a compliment! And you get a compliment!
Inevitably, Trump started dishing out grievances, insults and threats, however. Asked whether he would release his tax returns, Trump complained (falsely) that “the only ones that care about the tax returns are the reporters.”
Asked about his plan to construct a “border fence,” Trump protested a reporter's phrasing. “It’s not a fence; it’s a wall,” he shot back. “You just misreported it.”
Returning to the Russia story, Trump slammed coverage by BuzzFeed and struck an ominous tone when he said, “I think they're gonna suffer the consequences.”
Finally, Trump engaged in a testy exchange with CNN's Jim Acosta that ended with the president-elect declaring: “I'm not going to give you a question. You are fake news.”
This news conference had a little bit of everything. Most of all, it had a perfect encapsulation of Trump's exceedingly complicated relationship with the press, which does not appear to be changing one iota ahead of Inauguration Day.