The Trump team came out swinging against the media–specifically Buzzfeed and CNN–after they released stories about unsubstantiated, unverified claims alleging Russia had compromising information on Trump. Both the news outlets revealed the information the night before the President-Elect’s first press conference since his victory in November.
As the press conference began, Sean Spicer set the tone:
Before we start, I want to bring your attention to a few points on the report that was published in Buzzfeed last night. It’s frankly outrageous and highly irresponsible for a left-wing blog that was openly hostile to the President-Elect’s campaign to drop highly salacious and flat-out false information on the Internet just days before he takes the oath of office.
According to Buzzfeed‘s own editor, there are some serious reasons to doubt the allegations in the report. The executive editor of the New York Times also dismissed the report by saying it was “totally unsubstantiated”, echoing the concerns that many other reporters expressed on the Internet.
The fact that Buzzfeed and CNN made the decision to run with this unsubstantiated claim is a sad and pathetic attempt to get clicks. The report is not an intelligence report, plain and simple. One issue that the report talked about was the relationship of three individuals associated with the campaign.
About those three individuals: Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, and Carter Page; Carter Page is an individual who the President-Elect does not know and was put on notice months ago by the campaign. Paul Manafort has adamantly denied any of this involvement, and Michael Cohen who is said to have visited Prague in August and September did not leave or enter the United States during this time. We asked him to produce his passport to confirm his whereabouts and the dates in question, and there was no doubt that he was not in Prague.
In fact, Mr. Cohen has never been in Prague. A new report actually suggests that Michael Cohen was actually at the University of Southern California with his son at a baseball game. One report now suggests that apparently there’s another Michael Cohen. For all the talk lately about fake news, this political witch hunt by some in the media is based on some of the most flimsy reporting and it is frankly shameful and disgraceful.
Vice-President-Election Mike Pence also called out the media, saying:
I have long been a supporter of free and independent press and I always will be. But with freedom comes responsibility and the irresponsible decision of a few news organizations to run with a false and unsubstantiated report when most news organizations resisted the temptations to propagate this fake news can only be attributed to media bias in an attempt to demean our President.
Earlier in the day, incoming Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told ”Morning Joe” that the Buzzfeed report was “based on garbage, it’s total crap.”
“The BuzzFeed memo, the salacious details in that memo, all of those things are total phony-baloney garbage. It never happened. It isn’t true,” Priebus said.
Nearly every question in the press conference touched on Russia in some way.
Trump himself adamantly denied the allegations. As the New York Times reported:
“I think it’s a disgrace that information would be let out. I saw the information, I read the information outside of that meeting,” he said, a reference to a classified briefing he received from intelligence leaders. “It’s all fake news, it’s phony stuff, it didn’t happen,” Trump said. “It was gotten by opponents of ours.”
Asked about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump called it “an asset, not a liability” and an improvement over what he called America’s current “horrible relationship with Russia.”
In response to a question from Breitbart News editor Matt Boyle about how the media might reform itself, Trump suggested that the media could find a “moral compass.”
Later in the press conference, CNN White House Correspondent Jim Acosta repeatedly tried to interrupt the President-Elect, demanding that he be allowed to ask a question since Trump was “attacking” his news organization.
President-Elect Trump refused to take Acosta’s question, citing “fake news.”