In a foreboding speech at CIA headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, President Donald Trump attacked press coverage of his inauguration, characterizing reporters as "the most dishonest human beings" and saying that they would "pay."
The president wrongly claimed that the crowd had stretched to the Washington monument, despite photos showing the opposite, and that the press had lied about the size of the event. He repeatedly made these claims despite a multitude of photos that showed a relatively paltry crowd.
Trump also specifically named and condemned Zeke Miller, a reporter for Time, who reported Friday that Trump had removed a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. from the Oval Office—an error the reporter swiftly acknowledged and corrected. "Zeke, Zeke, Zeke," Trump repeated, falsely claiming that the mistake was never corrected.
Later in the day, White House press secretary Sean Spicer reiterated Trump's earlier attacks on the media:
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 21, 2017
On Twitter, observers responded to the attacks with fear and outrage:
Interesting how Trump tells the CIA today how he is going to make the press “pay”. Just what is he saying?
— neil pessall (@neilpX) January 21, 2017
For the history books: Trump used his first full day as president to smear a reporter and attack free press.
— Rebecca Leber (@rebleber) January 21, 2017
Trump's comments about media in CIA speech are disgraceful. He appears to have a real problem with a free press. Genuinely concerning.
— Cllr Duncan Flynn (@DuncanFlynn81) January 21, 2017
During Trump's meandering speech to the CIA, in which the president also spent long tangents bragging about the size of his campaign rallies, he also appeared to hint that his administration may loosen restrictions on torture.
"We haven't used the abilities we’ve got. We've been restrained," Trump said.
Trump also told the intelligence community crowd "I'm so behind you."
Trump attacked the CIA throughout his campaign, and it remains to be seen what relationship the agency will have with the Trump administration.