WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump turned the firing of NBC’s Matt Lauer into a fresh opportunity to attack the press Wednesday, unleashing a series of cryptic and personal tweets aimed at prominent media figures.
As many Americans were eating breakfast, the president swiftly responded to the abrupt dismissal of the longtime “Today” show host by condemning NBC News and its Philadelphia-based parent company, Comcast Corp. Trump said on Twitter: “Wow, Matt Lauer was just fired from NBC for ‘inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.’ But when will the top executives at NBC & Comcast be fired for putting out so much Fake News.”
Trump then referenced the NBC News chairman, adding: “Check out Andy Lack’s past!” It was not immediately clear what that comment referred to. In another tweet, the president used Lauer’s firing to lash out at “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough and MSNBC President Phil Griffin.
NBC declined to comment on Trump’s tweets.
It announced Wednesday that it had terminated Lauer after receiving a “detailed complaint” from a colleague about sexual misconduct.
Trump’s comment on “Fake News” was a reiteration of his long-standing complaints about mainstream news outlets that he contends have covered his presidency unfairly and inaccurately. Trump, who often deems stories that he doesn’t like to be fake news, has maintained an ongoing battle with the media.
His latest tweets follow a spate of posts in recent days denigrating the press, including one in which he suggested a contest to determine “the most dishonest, corrupt and/or distorted” news organization. He added: “Winner to receive the FAKE NEWS TROPHY!”
As a presidential candidate, Trump often criticized individual reporters by name at his massive, free-wheeling rallies. Wednesday’s tweets carried a sharply personal tone against a network that made Trump one of its biggest stars on “The Apprentice.”
Speaking of Griffin, Trump tweeted that in light of Lauer’s departure, “when will the Fake News practitioners at NBC be terminating the contract of Phil Griffin?”
Turning to Scarborough, Trump wrote: “And will they terminate low ratings Joe Scarborough based on the “unsolved mystery” that took place in Florida years ago? Investigate!”
The president may have been referring to the 2001 death of an employee for Scarborough when he was serving as a Republican congressman from Florida. The 28-year-old woman was found dead in the congressman’s district office. A doctor who performed her autopsy said she suffered an abnormal heart rhythm, and police said at the time there were no signs of foul play.
Scarborough responded with his own tweet: “Looks like I picked a good day to stop responding to Trump’s bizarre tweets. He is not well.”
Trump has had a running feud with Scarborough and his “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski. After the two questioned Trump’s mental stability on their show, Trump last summer issued a crude tweet questioning Brzezinski’s intelligence, looks and temperament.
The president’s tweets seeking to undermine the media have been a mainstay of Trump’s first year in office. The latest examples come amid tension over an upcoming White House holiday party.
CNN, which is among Trump’s favorite targets, announced Tuesday that the network’s reporters would not be attending Friday’s White House Christmas party, an annual tradition in which reporters and administration officials interact in a more relaxed setting.
“In light of the president’s continued attacks on freedom of the press and CNN, we do not feel it is appropriate to celebrate with him as his invited guests,” the network said in a statement, adding that it intended to send “a White House reporting team to the event” to cover any news.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded to the CNN announcement with a celebratory tweet, writing, “Christmas comes early! Finally, good news from @CNN.”
Trump piled on, tweeting: “Great, and we should boycott Fake News CNN. Dealing with them is a total waste of time!”
Journalists with The Associated Press also have been invited to the White House party. The news organization leaves it up to individual reporters to attend at their discretion.
Over the weekend, Trump went after CNN International on Twitter, saying the network was “a major source of (Fake) news” outside the U.S. and complained that they “represent our Nation to the WORLD very poorly.”
“The outside world does not see the truth from them!” he wrote.
It was an especially pointed attack on a news organization that prides itself on its international coverage.
CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer noted during Monday’s broadcast that the network’s reporters risk their lives across the globe on a daily basis. “No matter how many insults or blatant assaults on the press and its freedoms, this pursuit is something for which we will never bend or break and even the loudest critics can’t silence the facts,” he said.
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