By Jeff Mason
BRIDGEWATER, N.J. (Reuters) – President Donald Trump stepped up his feud with the media on Sunday by tweeting a mock video of himself tackling and repeatedly striking a man with a CNN logo super-imposed in place of his head, followed by a logo saying “Fraud News Network.”
The video appeared to be a modified version of a 2007 appearance by Trump at World Wrestling Entertainment’s WrestleMania 23 promotion, in which Trump “takes down” WWE Chairman Vince McMahon. In Sunday’s video, McMahon’s head has been replaced with the CNN logo.
After Trump appears to beat on the CNN effigy, a logo, “FNN Fraud News Network” appears at the bottom of the screen in script similar to that of CNN.
Trump appointed McMahon’s wife, Linda McMahon, as the head of the Small Business Administration, a Cabinet-level agency. She was active in the management of WWE for many years.
As a presidential candidate and as commander-in-chief, Trump has repeatedly made known his disdain for the media, calling it “the enemy of the American people” and frequently referring to mainstream news organizations as “failing” or “fake news.” He has been particularly scathing of CNN.
The video takes his criticism to a new level and drew criticism from CNN and on social media.
“It is a sad day when the President of the United States encourages violence against reporters,” CNN said in a statement.
“Instead of preparing for his overseas trip, his first meeting with Vladimir Putin, dealing with North Korea and working on his health care bill, he is instead involved in juvenile behavior far below the dignity of his office,” CNN said.
Trump leaves later this week for a trip to Poland and Germany, where he will attend a meeting of Group of 20 leaders including the Russian president.
White House homeland security and counterterrorism adviser Thomas Bossert said the tweet was not a threat.
“I think that no one would perceive that as a threat. I hope they don’t,” Bossert said on the ABC program “This Week.”
“But I do think that he’s beaten up in a way on cable platforms that he has a right to respond to,” Bossert said.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a group that advocates for journalists’ rights, condemned the president’s tweet and said it “glorified physical violence against members of the press.”
Bill Kristol, the conservative commentator and editor-at-large of The Weekly Standard, compared Trump’s actions to behavior that caused the fall of the Roman Empire.
“The speed with which we’re recapitulating the decline and fall of Rome is impressive. What took Rome centuries we’re achieving in months,” Kristol wrote in a Tweet.
Trump’s Sunday tweet followed his scathing and highly personal Twitter attack on two MSNBC anchors last week, which drew condemnation from Republicans, including Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan, and Democrats alike.
Trump, who is spending a long weekend at his property in Bedminster, New Jersey, took to Twitter on Saturday to call the media “fake” and “fraudulent.”
At an event honoring veterans at the Kennedy Center in Washington on Saturday evening, he told the crowd that the media had tried to stop him from coming to the White House.
“But I’m president, and they’re not,” he said.
(Additional reporting by David Lawder and Susan Cornwell in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler)