By Lena Williams
President Trump is a rabid, artful Twitter user. He joined Twitter in March 2009 and has amassed 33 million followers. The President is an active user, posting tweets daily from morning to night. He knows the impact his tweets have not only on his followers but millions of Americans and others around the world. His every tweet can, has been, a source of breaking news, a statement of domestic and foreign policy, an endorsement or indictment.
The president knew exactly what he was doing when he retweeted a video on July 2, hashtag FraudNEWSCNN#FNN that pictured him pummeling a man with a CNN logo on his face. The 28 second video of an edited World Wrestling Entertainment broadcast shows the President of the United States, the leader of the free world, body-slamming and hitting the man outside a wrestling ring. The official @POTUS account retweeted Trump’s tweet a short time later to its 19 million followers. It was one of the president’s most shared and most retweeted posts ever and it was one of his most blatant, disturbing attacks on the media.
I am one of the multi-millions who use Twitter. While I am not an avid Twitter user I know that when I retweet anything, I am tacitly endorsing the contents of the original tweet. If I personally do not know the source of a tweet, no matter how I may feel about the subject, I do not retweet it.
Trump apparently didn’t bother to check the source, whom CNN identified as “HanA**holeSolo.” According to his Reddit account, “HanA**Solo” has posted several vile comments and memes against Muslims, African-Americans, Jews and others. He has also glorified violence.
Although the White House has said the controversial video did not come from Reddit, the president was once again so Hell-bent on taking another dig at the media that neither he nor anyone in his administration bothered to check the source of the video before spreading its abhorrent content to millions of Twitter users around the world. Not that it would have mattered.
Since he announced his candidacy for president on June 16, 2015, Trump has repeatedly verbally attacked and villified journalists and the media companies they work for.
During the 2016 presidential campaign he blacklisted reporters, denying them campaign access. He has threatened to change the nation’s libel laws to make it easier for him to sue media companies for stories they publish or broadcast.
At his rallies, Trump has baited those assembled to lash out at the media, in some instances, causing such a frenzy that journalists had to be secretly escorted out back doors. The daily White House press briefings have been used by the president’s spokespersons to berate the White House press corps, intimidate them by suggesting the administration has secret dossiers of certain journalists and engaging in an ongoing back-and-forth about the legitimacy of the stories they write and broadcast.
Trump has yet to apologize for the retweet and it’s doubtful he ever will.
Instead, the president’s son, Donald Jr., added fuel to the fire Saturday when he posted a video meme of a doctored clip from the 1986 movie, “Top Gun.” In it, President Trump’s face is superimposed over Tom Cruise’s character as he shoots down a Russian jet with a CNN logo on it. Trump is seen and heard in the clip saying “you’re fired.”
Trump Jr. called the video, “one of the best I’ve seen.” Once again, no one knows who created the video that was posted by “@OldRowOfficial,” but it is one of a series of memes showing the president attacking CNN that have been posted by various social media users.
Maybe, the president and his oldest son think the videos are funny but no one should be laughing. Since the president’s retweet, there have been reports that journalists working at CNN have received death threats.
Congressman Adam Schiff, the Democrat from California, reminded the public of the consequences for such irresponsible when he pointed out that a journalist in Montana had recently been body-slammed by Greg Gianforte, a Republican candidate for the House of Representatives. Gianforte won the election and subsequently apologized to the journalist.
Some Americans were so upset by the president’s tweet that a hashtag, “#25th AmendmentNow” lobbying for his removal from office was trending on Twitter on Sunday night. Other Twitter users flagged the tweet and reported it to the social network company saying it violated the company’s terms of service prohibiting “hateful conduct.”
Several media outlets expressed alarm by the violence towards journalists portrayed in the video. CNN accused Trump of engaging in “juvenile behavior far below the dignity of his office.” In a statement released last Sunday CNN brought up the fact that Trump’s deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders recently said “the president in no way form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence. If anything, quite the contrary.”
“Clearly Sanders lied,” the CNN statement said. “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 involved in juvenile behavior far below the dignity of his office.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement this week that the tweet “undermines the work of the media in the U.S. and makes it more dangerous.”
“This tweet is beneath the office of the presidency,” the statement went on to say. “Sadly, it is not beneath this president.”
Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The New York Times, said: “I think it is unseemly that the president would attack journalists for doing their jobs, and encourage such anger at the media.”
At least one member of the Republican party weighed in to express their consternation.
“Exactly, what I meant when I said #StopTheTwitterTantrums,” Congressman Mike Coffman, a Republican from Colorado, replied on Twitter.
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, also condemned the video.
“Violence and violent imagery to bully the press must be rejected,” Pelosi wrote. “This #July4th, celebrate freedom of the press, guardian of our democracy.”
Even “HanA**holeSolo,” whose tweet started the brouhaha expressed regret, writing on Reddit that he does not advocate violence against the press and expressed remorse for other racist and anti-Semitic posts.
Trump’s repeated tirades hasn’t stopped the press from doing their jobs. Journalism is the only profession mentioned in the Constitution as vital to our democracy and journalists have long suffered the slings and arrows of American presidents. Journalists are taught to develop thick skins, deaf ears and blind eyes to critics while they carry out our duties as members of the Fourth Estate.
As Ron Jonson, the Welsh journalist and author of “The Elephant in the Room: A Journey Into the Trump Campaign and the Alt-Right,” noted: “It’s good for journalists to feel demeaned. It means we’re onto a story.”
But when the President of the United States uses his office to incite violence against anyone, let alone members of the media, it should be cause for concern for all Americans.