At a televised Fox News town hall held at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Donald Trump rejected a supporter’s advice to rein in his bullying tendencies and begin answering the press’s questions directly, instead blaming his belligerent style on the behaviour of a “hostile” media.
In a question played to Mr Trump on video, retired nurse and elementary school guidance counsellor Carolyn Perkins invited the president to reflect on whether the way he handles questions at his White House press briefings is either becoming of his office or politically wise.
“President Trump, my husband and I think you, your family and your staff for your great dedication to our country. We pray for you every day,” Ms Perkins said.
“The question I have is about your manner of presentation. Why do you use descriptive words that could be classified as bullying, and why do you not directly answer the questions asked by the press, but instead speak of past successes and generally ramble?
“USA needs you! Please let go of those behaviours that are turning people away from you. Please hold on to your wonderful attributes that make you our great leader and let go of other characteristics that do not serve you.”
Mr Trump responded: “I think I like that question! I’m not sure, but I think I like that question!”
Then, as if to prove Ms Perkins’s point, he unfurled a long, rambling answer restating past successes and complaining of his victimisation at the hands of the media, whom he said treat him more unfairly than they have any president – even Abraham Lincoln.
“They come at me with questions that are disgraceful, to be honest, disgraceful. Their manner of presentation, and their words. And I feel that if I was kind to them, I’d be walked off the stage!”
It was unclear exactly whom Mr Trump thought he would be “walked off the stage” by, but he continued. “And yet, if you look in Florida today, we had hundreds and hundreds of boats going up and down the intercoastal, Trump, Trump — we have tremendous support. But the media is, they might as well be in the Democrat party. And why, I don’t know.”
The president then claimed several achievements on the military and tax policy before returning to his number one enemy: “All of the things we’ve done, and yet we have a very hostile press … So I really appreciate the question, and I very much appreciate the sentiment behind the question. But I’m standing up there, and instead of asking me a normal question, the level of anger and hatred — I’ll look at them, I’ll say ‘what’s your problem? What is your problem?’”
His responses to reporters asking him questions are indeed often personal. On one occasion in late March, when a journalist asked him what he would say to Americans scared about the effects of the pandemic, he replied: “I would say that you’re a terrible reporter.”
Equally, he has repeatedly sought to frame the media as his principal antagonist during the coronavirus crisis. He recently went so far as to begin a briefing by showing the assembled journalists a compilation of videos edited to imply that “The Media Minimised The Risk From The Start”. (Mr Trump himself repeatedly downplayed the virus’s potential.)
“I think I have educated a lot of people as to the press,” he said after showing the clip, “and I would love to be able to say that we have a very honest press … I don’t mind being criticised but not when they are wrong, not when people have done a great job.”
May 4, 2020, 6:28 AM PDT