The comments would seem to be a response to the hubbub over Kellyanne Conway having repeatedly cited a non-existent terror attack in Bowling Green, Ky., in recent days. But Trump doesn't appear to have totally invented this theory on the fly.
Instead, the kernel of the idea appears to have come from -- or at least been propagated by -- one of his favorite news sources: the conspiracy theory website InfoWars.
As @UrbanAchievr noted after Trump's comments, InfoWars has been barking up this tree for a while now. A sampling of its headlines:
- "FAKE NEWS: MAINSTREAM MEDIA WHITEWASHES ISLAMIC TERROR IN BERLIN: Propagandists desperate to hide the obvious" -- Dec. 20
- "SCANDAL: MASS MEDIA COVERS UP TERRORISM TO PROTECT ISLAM" -- July 29
- "GERMANY COVERING UP TERROR PLOTS TO PROTECT MUSLIM MIGRANTS" -- June 24
- "MEDIA CAUGHT COVERING UP ISLAMIC TIES IN MUNICH ATTACK" -- July 24
- "VIDEO: TERROR IN GERMANY – THE TRUTH THEY HIDE: Mass media deception to conceal what's really happening" -- July 25
Former congressman Allen West (R-Fla.) has also pushed this idea, posting a video from InfoWars back in August under the headline, "TERROR ATTACK: Massive media cover-up." And it's a theme that has cropped up on other conspiracy theory and right-wing websites from time to time.
The idea of the media covering up or not fully covering terrorist attacks was around before InfoWars picked it up, though. Conservatives have long accused the media of obscuring the details and motivations of radical Islamic terrorists in an effort to downplay the role of religion. After Benghazi, the media were often accused of not sufficiently covering the terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost -- or refusing to label it terrorism.
So suspicions about the mainstream media slow-rolling the importance or true roots of terrorist attacks go back years. What InfoWars is doing now is taking the next step -- accusing the media of covering up the attacks.
And the idea that Trump got this from InfoWars is hardly far-fetched. Many of Trump's conspiracy theories originate or at least involve InfoWars. And Trump has made no apologies for tying himself to the website and its founder, Alex Jones. In December 2015 -- in the thick of his GOP primary campaign -- Trump actually appeared on Jones's show.
"Your reputation's amazing," Trump told Jones on his show. "I will not let you down. You will be very, very impressed, I hope, and we'll be speaking a lot. ... A year into office, you'll be saying, 'Wow, I remember that interview. He said he was going to do it, and he did a great job.'"
InfoWars has helped propagate the baseless theory that millions of people illegally voted, depriving Trump of a popular-vote win. It was a major player in pushing the birther conspiracy. It was an early player in the "Hillary for Prison" game, having started selling t-shirts bearing the slogan in the fall of 2015. And it has pushed the baseless idea that Muslims cheered in the streets on 9/11.
All of these have also been embraced by Trump, and now it appears we can add one more to the list.