Journalists, human rights groups, and lawmakers found common ground in their reaction to Donald Trump's latest attack on media outlets who critically who cover his administration. The video the president posted on Twitter over the weekend, showing him tackling and punching the wrestling promoter Vince McMahon with a superimposed CNN logo over McMahon's face, was met with widespread disbelief and outrage.
The Committee to Protect Journalists quickly released a statement saying, "Targeting individual journalists or media outlets, on or offline, creates a chilling effect and fosters an environment where further harassment or even physical attack is deemed acceptable."
The group noted that Trump's video was released just weeks after Representative Greg Gianforte of Montana was recorded assaulting Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian, a day before Gianforte won his congressional seat.
Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, took to Twitter to react to the video.
Incredible. Trump thinks it's appropriate to circulate mock video of him as head of state beating a CNN journalist. Autocrats are rejoicing. https://t.co/IY2hdJ3XHw— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) July 2, 2017
A number of politicians also tweeted their disapproval.
Violence & violent imagery to bully the press must be rejected. This #July4th, celebrate freedom of the press, guardians to our democracy— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) July 2, 2017
The modern mode of communication is not the issue. It's the crude, false, and unpresidential content. https://t.co/liEYbhkpnx— Chris Van Hollen (@ChrisVanHollen) July 2, 2017
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And former Labor Secretary Robert Reich wrote that the president appears to be mounting a coordinated campaign against the free press.
"Trump began his presidency attacking the press for fake news," he wrote in a blog post. "Then he called the networks and publications that criticized him 'enemies of the people.' His new attacks seem to be going a step farther – mobilizing his supporters against media personalities and executives that are critical of him."
CNN itself released a statement imploring the president to focus on the responsibilities of his office.
"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 instead involved in juvenile behavior far below the dignity of his office," CNN said in a statement. "We will keep doing our jobs. He should start doing his."
Meanwhile, Trump's allies repeated claims that the president's direct targeting of a news organization is simply his way of defending himself against the media's negative reporting of his policies.
"I think that no one would perceive that as a threat, I hope they don't," said White House Homeland Security advisor Thomas Bossert in an appearance on ABC's This Week. "But I do think that he's beaten up in a way on cable platforms that he has a right to respond to."
Georgetown professor Colin Kahl was one of several in Washington who reacted with dismay to Bossert's quick defense of the president.
Bossert, one of the supposed adults at the WH, becomes an instant apologist for Trump's incitement against the media https://t.co/zN5IVkePWJ— Colin Kahl (@ColinKahl) July 2, 2017
Trump's video came out a day before the results of a new NPR/Marist College poll was released, showing that 70 percent of Americans believe civility between Democratic and Republican politicians has gone down since President Trump was elected.