Then he added, “The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.”
When pressed about a recent New York Times story detailing calls between his campaign staff and Russian intelligence, Trump offered, “The failing New York Times wrote a big, long front-page story yesterday. And it was very much discredited, as you know. It was—it’s a joke.” (For the record, Trump gave no citation as to where and how the Times’ reporting was actually discredited).
But this shrugging-off of facts was not limited to questions about Trump’s connections with Russia. After incorrectly stating that, among Republican candidates, his electoral victory was second only to Reagan’s, NBC’s Peter Alexander pointed out the truth: It was not (George H.W. Bush bested Trump by 120 electoral votes. What’s more, every president since—other than George W. Bush—has had bigger victories). Trump remained defiant. “Well, I don’t know,” he said, “I was given that information. I was given—I actually, I’ve seen that information around.” If he was mistaken, it was someone else’s fault.
Frustrated by the fusillade of tough questions, Trump scanned the room: “Let’s see,” he said, “I want to find a friendly reporter.” Even for a press corps that long ago ceded normalized relations with the White House, it was a gasp-worthy moment. “Are you a friendly reporter?” Trump asked, shamelessly, to a reporter near the front of the pack. “Watch how friendly he is. Go ahead.”
The reporter, Jake Turx, who writes for the ultra-Orthodox Jewish publication Ami, asked about an increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes since Trump’s inauguration. The president was upset—this was not a friendly reporter kind of question! “He said he was gonna ask a very simple, easy question,” the president complained. “And it’s not. It’s not a simple question, not a fair question.” The audacity.
Trump began to answer: “Number one, I am the least anti- Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism, the least racist person.” (Never mind that Turx had not asserted either—in fact, he’d gone out of his way to stipulate that no one in his community understood Trump to be an anti-Semite.) But, clearly, the president was still hung up on the fact that he was even being asked about this to begin with.
“See,” he circled back to the premise—the alleged friendly reporter question. “He lied about — he was gonna get up and ask a very straight, simple question, so you know, welcome to the world of the media.” (Or: welcome to the world of the presidency.)
At last, someone did ask a friendly reporter sort of question, about Melania Trump’s forthcoming plans for her duties as first lady.
“Now, that’s what I call a nice question,” said Trump. “That is very—who are you with?” The reporter answered, inaudibly.
“Good,” said the president. “I’m gonna start watching, all right? Thank you very much.” Here was the apparent reward for a softball question: presidential endorsement, the spoils of capitulation.