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Brian Stelter: Trump's Attacks On The Press Are A 'Verbal Form Of Poison'

Stelter's network has more than its share of problems, but he's right about Trump's attack on the press.
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Brian Stelter's network has more than its share of problems (like giving lying Trumpsters a format to spread their bile on a weekly basis as part of their political panels, for one), but he's right about Trump's attack on the press.

The Reliable Sources host opened his show with this bit of commentary on Trump's ongoing war with any media outlets that are the least bit critical of his administration:

BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey. I'm Brian Stelter. And it's time for RELIABLE SOURCES. This is our weekly look at the story behind the story at how the media really works, how the news gets made.

First, this comment.

The American press is stronger than any demagogue but President Trump's attacks do present real challenges. That's what today's program is about. For as long as I've been alive and for as long as you've been alive, no leader of the free world has publicly spoken this way about the press.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The press honestly is out of control. Those are critical leaks. The leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake. Fake media. The failing "New York Times".

Fake news. Very fake news. They should be ashamed of themselves.

REPORTER: Impartial, free and fair. Mr. President --

TRUMP: Yes, sure, just like CNN.

Watch how friendly he is. Go ahead.

Not a simple question, not a fair question. OK, sit down. I understand the rest of your question.

The tone is such hatred.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Poison, that's what it is. It's a verbal form of poison meant to affect your view of the media world, meant to harm news organizations.

Notice what Trump was doing with this tweet -- this now famous tweet from Friday. You saw it. It says, "The fake news media, failing New York Times, NBC, CBS, CNN, is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people."

He was singling out specific news outlets as enemies, including this one. He wasn't talking about the entire press. He was talking about those five. And he wasn't saying that they're his enemy, but your enemy. Maybe trying to drive another wedge between the sources he likes and the sources he dislikes.

Maybe he also was trying to distract us, right? Let's see. What else happened that hour, the 4:00 p.m. hour on Friday? Let's go ahead and pull it up in the control room. This is from CNN at 4:01 p.m.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TV ANCHOR: This is exclusive video of the FBI Director James Comey leaving a classified briefing on Capitol Hill with members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a handful of other senators and we are told that meeting was, listen to this, about Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: What was said in that meeting remains a mystery two days later. But reporters are trying to figure it out.

Some folks in the media say Trump's huffing and puffing about the press is just a petty distraction. That we should focus more on covering his actions, what he does and not what he says. And it's true that his actions are the most important things.

But some of his actions are about the media, appointing aides who condemn the press, holding news conferences that complain about the coverage for an hour and 15 minutes, and carefully composing tweets in response to what he sees on TV. Those are his actions.

These actions and these words matter. His words inspire many people, but they instill fear in many others. His words are what won him the election. Words like crooked and build a wall.

Now, his words like fake news are part of a never-ending campaign. I would describe those words as poison.

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