CNN is striking back against White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders after she claimed that the network “blamed responsibility” for pipe bombings on Donald Trump — which CNN says is a lie.
In a contentious session with reporters on Monday, CNN’s Jim Acosta pressed Sanders to specify which news organizations and journalists were the “enemy of the American people,” as Donald Trump had alleged, the exchange being relayed via Twitter. Trump had been widely criticized for his harsh rhetoric against his perceived political enemies, with his critics claiming that he has created an atmosphere which leads more unhinged followers to act out. One such supporter — Cesar Sayoc — allegedly participated last week in a wave of suspicious mailings containing crude bombs targeting top Democrats and CNN.
When pressed by Acosta, Sanders claimed that he and CNN had blamed Trump for the bombings — which the network says is untrue. In a tweet from the company’s official public relationship account, CNN said that no one on the network said Trump was directly responsible for the bombings.
“We did say that he, and you, should understand your words matter,” the network wrote. “Every single one of them. But so far, you don’t seem to get that.”
No @PressSec, CNN did not say @realDonaldTrump was directly responsible for the bomb sent to our office by his ardent and emboldened supporter. We did say that he, and you, should understand your words matter. Every single one of them. But so far, you don’t seem to get that. pic.twitter.com/ZbH5DQggWq
— CNN Communications (@CNNPR) October 29, 2018
While the White House has pushed back strongly against those suggesting that Donald Trump’s rhetoric contributed to the events of last week, Trump himself has pointed fingers directly at the media.
“There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news,” Trump tweeted on Monday.
Two of the politically motivated attacks last week appeared to be fueled by far-right ideology. The suspect accused of mailing pipe bombs to Democrats selected targets that Trump himself has frequently attacked, including billionaire donor George Soros. The man accused of killing 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh had posted online about right-wing conspiracy theories claiming that Soros was paying protesters and funding a migrant caravan moving toward the United States. It should be noted, however, that alleged Pittsburgh gunman Robert Bowers was vehemently anti-Trump in his ideological views, as the Daily Beast reports.
Julian Zelizer — a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University — told USA Today that it is typical of Trump to use the tragedies to further his own political agenda.
“Nothing distracts President Trump from his political message,” Zelizer said. “He has a series of opponents, with the media right up top, and crises, scandals, and turmoil does not distract him from returning to these themes. He is refusing to let the events of the past week control the agenda, and he is finding a way to fit the pipe bombs, the shooting and more into his familiar narrative of his being unfairly attacked by the media.”
Jim Acosta has also responded to Donald Trump calling the press the enemy of the American people, writing, “I am not your enemy. You are not my enemy. It is wrong to call your fellow Americans the enemy. We are all on the same team. We are all Americans.”