Less than 12 hours after praising himself for being on his best behavior as bombs were found in the mail of several targets of his incendiary and conspiratorial ravings—including Congresswomen Maxine Waters, CNN, former President Barack Obama, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—President Donald Trump cast aside his temporarily subdued facade Thursday morning and fired off a tweet blaming the media for the explosives sent to at least nine separate locations and warning that the press must "clean up its act, fast."
A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News. It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 25, 2018
"This tweet will go down in history as one of the moments in which everyone should have understood that the American democracy truly is at risk," Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, wrote in response to Trump's latest attack on the press.
This tweet will go down in history as one of the moments in which everyone should have understood that the American democracy truly is at risk. https://t.co/RmnLLPROpy
— Trita Parsi (@tparsi) October 25, 2018
Political commentators and members of the American press immediately recognized that—far from mitigating the "anger" that has "gotten so bad and hateful"—Trump's attempt to blame the media for pipe bombs being sent to the targets of his rhetoric could stoke further resentment and encourage even more violence against journalists.
"Trump is arguing that the media itself is responsible for the bombs that were sent to it because it dared to criticize Trump. In other words: if you continue to criticize Trump your life will be in danger," noted Igor Volsky, director of the gun control advocacy group Guns Down America. "How is this not inviting further violence?"
Trump's message to the media (and I guess Democrats):
If you criticize me, you'll get more bombs. https://t.co/qPhK5oaOKS
— igorvolsky (@igorvolsky) October 25, 2018
Trump's tweet and the swift backlash came just hours after over 200 retired journalists signed an open letter (pdf) condemning the president's continued attacks on the free press, highlighting as just one example his remarks last week praising Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) for body-slamming Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs.
"Trump's condoning of political violence is part of a sustained pattern of attack on a free press--which includes labeling any reportage he doesn't like as 'fake news' and barring reporters and news organizations whom he wishes to punish from press briefings and events," the former journalists wrote. "The president... is actively working not simply to undermine the press, but to incite violence against it as well."