President Trump is taking a beating over his divisive rhetoric, and the White House is getting desperate. On Monday afternoon, for the first time since October 3rd, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders actually hosted a press briefing. Sanders only held one such briefing in both August and September, so the decision to double up this month signals an internal belief that the White House needs to project a unified front against criticisms of the president in the wake of recent violence. The briefing was short and harried, with Sanders mostly dodging question as she excoriated the “Fake News” for daring to speak ill of the president. CNBC’s John Harwood tweeted that it was the first time he ever thought Sanders “looked shaken by criticism at the podium.”
The press secretary first made sure to make clear that no one was to blame for the attempted bombings of Trump’s political enemies or the massacre that left 11 dead in a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday except the perpetrators themselves. Trump has on multiple occasions blamed the free press, which hours earlier he referred to as the “true Enemy of the People.”
“The only person responsible for carrying out either of these heinous acts were the individuals who carried them out,” Sanders says, calling the media “outrageous” for blaming Trump for the last week’s wave of mailed pipe bombs and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting pic.twitter.com/AJnmoKWCOB
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) October 29, 2018
CNN has been a focal point of the president’s criticisms of the media. He has repeatedly described them as “Fake News” on Twitter, and last year even posted a video of himself body-slamming a man with the network’s logo superimposed over his head. But when CNN’s Jim Acosta asked Sanders whether the network, which has recently been the target of multiple attempting bombings, was one of the outlets to which Trump was referring when he tweeted about the “true Enemy of the People,” she demurred.
Sanders declines to list which outlets Pres. Trump considers the "enemy of the people": "I think those individuals probably know who they are."
"Shouldn't you have the guts, Sarah, to state which outlets, which journalists are the enemy of the people?" CNN's Jim Acosta asks. pic.twitter.com/DIDblSvznO
— ABC News (@ABC) October 29, 2018
The president’s rhetoric was the focal point of the briefing, but plenty of other issues were raised for Sanders to mischaracterize.
She lied about Trump’s health care policy.
The reason is they are lying. https://t.co/j7u2MvdlUZ
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) October 29, 2018
She lied about Trump’s margin of victory in the 2016 election.
Rarely has a lie been this easy to prove: White House @PressSec says Trump won the election with an "overwhelming majority of 63 million Americans".
— Philip Crowther (@PhilipinDC) October 29, 2018
She threw her hands up about how to handle mass shootings, but noted that the administration is entertaining every option, including calling on the military, to stifle the imaginary “invasion” crisis posed by the caravan of migrants currently making its way through southern Mexico.
. @PressSec criticizes media for focusing too much on politics. Then, when @stevenportnoy asks pointed policy questions about caravan, she says: "I'm not going to get into specific policies that we're considering."
— David Nakamura (@DavidNakamura) October 29, 2018
The briefing ended abruptly, with Sanders ducking out of a line of inquiry from NBC’s Hallie Jackson about her contention that the president is simply “drawing contrast” as he continues to attack his opponents despite preaching the need for unity. “At what time does a national tragedy take precedence over the president needing to punch back?” Jackson asked. “If not now, when?”
“I think you saw the president do exactly that in the wake of a national tragedy,” Sanders said, going on to describe the many times Trump has “risen to the occasion” to bring the country together. When pressed further by Jackson, Sanders stammered through a rant about how most of the media’s coverage of the president is negative before storming off the stage.
“If anything, I think it is sad and divisive the way that every single thing that comes out of the media — 90 percent of what comes out of the media’s mouths is negative about this president,” she said. “Despact the fite [sic] that the economy is booming. Despact the fite [sic] that he said he would fix the trade deal and he’s done exactly that. He said he would defeat ISIS and he has. The president has been delivering day-in, day-out, and I think it would be nice if every once in a while we could focus on on a few of positive things the president has done instead of just attack him.”
To paraphrase a popular horror film trope, the Fake News is coming from inside the White House.