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Trump accuses ‘very unpatriotic’ journalists of putting the ‘lives of many’ in peril

President Trump is not the first leader to label journalists as “enemies of the people” and creators of “fake news.” (Video: Melissa Macaya/The Washington Post)

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Trump escalated his feud with the news media on Sunday, accusing journalists of being unpatriotic and endangering lives after the publisher of the New York Times disclosed that he had warned Trump recently that his inflammatory rhetoric about the media could lead to violence.

Trump — who has made “fake news” a rallying cry and labeled journalists the “enemy of the people” — fired off a Twitter tirade Sunday afternoon from his New Jersey golf estate blasting the media for revealing internal government deliberations and for what he considers unfairly negative coverage of his presidency.

“When the media — driven insane by their Trump Derangement Syndrome — reveals internal deliberations of our government, it truly puts the lives of many, not just journalists, at risk! Very unpatriotic!” Trump wrote.

"Stick with us," President Trump told a crowd in Kansas City about his trade actions. "Don't believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news." (Video: The Washington Post)

The president went on to say, “I will not allow our great country to be sold out by anti-Trump haters in the dying newspaper industry,” singling out the Times and The Washington Post for writing “bad stories even on very positive achievements.”

Trump seems to have been responding to the lengthy statement issued earlier Sunday by Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger, who publicly detailed his July 20 meeting at the White House with the president.

Trump first characterized their discussion as “a very good and interesting meeting,” writing in a Sunday morning tweet that he and Sulzberger “spent much time talking about the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, ‘Enemy of the People.’”

Sulzberger then took issue with Trump’s interpretation of their meeting. The president had invited the publisher, and he was accompanied at the White House by James Bennet, the Times’s editorial page editor, according to a Times spokeswoman. The spokeswoman said that White House aides asked that the meeting remain “off the record,” in keeping with past practice for such meetings, but that the president put it “on the record” with his Sunday tweet.

Once again, ‘fake news’ decried by Trump turns out to be true

Sulzberger said in his statement, based on his and Bennet’s notes, that he agreed to the meeting with Trump “to raise concerns about the president’s deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric.”

“I told the president directly that I thought that his language was not just divisive but increasingly dangerous,” Sulzberger said. “I told him that although the phrase ‘fake news’ is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists ‘the enemy of the people.’ I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence.”

He continued: “I repeatedly stressed that this is particularly true abroad, where the president’s rhetoric is being used by some regimes to justify sweeping crackdowns on journalists. I warned that it was putting lives at risk, that it was undermining the democratic ideals of our nation, and that it was eroding one of our country’s greatest exports: a commitment to free speech and a free press.”

The publisher went on to say: “Throughout the conversation I emphasized that if President Trump, like previous presidents, was upset with coverage of his administration he was of course free to tell the world. I made clear repeatedly that I was not asking for him to soften his attacks on The Times if he felt our coverage was unfair. Instead, I implored him to reconsider his broader attacks on journalism, which I believe are dangerous and harmful to our country.”

Venting about press, Trump has repeatedly sought to ban reporters over questions

The White House has provided no details of Trump and Sulzberger’s conversation beyond the president’s tweet.

“The president regularly meets with members of the media and we can confirm this meeting took place,” Mercedes Schlapp, the White House’s director of strategic communications, said in an emailed statement.

Sulzberger became the New York Times’s publisher in January, succeeding his father, Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., who is the company’s chairman of the board.

Trump regularly expresses fury with the way he is covered in the news media, and he has long had a particular fascination with his coverage in the Times, dating to his many years of struggles to win the respect of Manhattan’s elite.

In a speech last week at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Kansas City, Mo., Trump bashed the journalists covering the event, which drew a rebuke from VFW leadership.

“Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news,” Trump said, gesturing to the press area of the venue.

The president added, “Just remember: What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

Also last week, the Trump White House barred CNN correspondent Kaitlan Collins from attending an open media event in the Rose Garden over her questioning of the president earlier that day.

At various moments throughout his presidency, Trump has sought to punish journalists for the way they ask him questions, directing White House staff to bar those reporters from covering official events or to revoke their press credentials, The Washington Post reported this past week.

“These people shouting questions are the worst,” Trump has said, according to an administration official. “Why do we have them in here?”