After a week in which three mail bombs were sent to the offices of the cable news network CNN, according to the New York Times, Donald Trump has defended his repeated condemnations of the media as “the enemy of the people,” saying that he actually feels he is “doing a service” by using the emotionally fraught phrase.
The bombs were sent, allegedly, by Florida resident Cesar Sayoc — a registered Republican and ardent Donald Trump supporter, as Inquisitr reported.
In an interview for a new HBO program run by the political site Axios, Trump also said that portraying the media as an “enemy of the people” is “my only form of fighting back. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t do that.”
“In modern American history, no other president argued it’s not his job to calm people in a moment of high tension and unease, especially in the days following deadly domestic terrorism,” write Axios reporters Jonathan Swan and Jim VandeHei, who conducted the interview with Trump set to air on HBO Sunday, November 4. “Trump feels no responsibility for how Americans respond to his words or actions.”
In one exchange, Trump is asked, “You are the most powerful man in the world. And if you say that word — ‘enemy, enemy, enemy’ — think about what enemy means.”
“I think I’m doing a service when people write stories about me that are so wrong,” Trump responded.
Watch a new excerpt from the Axios Trump interview in the video below.
While Trump has been employing the phrase “enemy of the people” to attack the media since early in his term, repeating it 15 times in his Twitter postings, according to data from the Trump Twitter Archive, the phrase has a long history and has been closely associated with political violence.
While the exact origin of the phrase is unclear — even, per the British Library, appearing in the William Shakespeare play Coriolanus, written more than 400 years ago — it appears to have first come into widespread use during the French revolution when it was used in similar fashion to the way Trump uses the phrase today, to attack “false news.”
In fact, under a 1794 French law, “enemies of the people” who “spread false news” could be punished by execution, according to The Guardian.
But in recent times, the phrase “enemy of the people” has been most closely associated with Joseph Stalin, the autocratic ruler of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1953. According to a historical account by the New York Times, Stalin condemned any political rival as an “enemy of the people.”
“It was a label that meant death,” University of Pennsylvania Russian Studies Professor Mitchell A. Orenstein told the Times. “It meant you were subhuman and entirely expendable.”