President Donald Trump panned a New York Times report that detailed the friction inside his administration and its early stumbles Monday. | AP Photo
The president appears especially irked by the growing narrative of Bannon as the real power in the White House.
President Donald Trump on Monday lashed out via Twitter at a series of news reports revealing the turmoil inside the White House, leaning on his crutch of “fake news” as he struggles to control a hardening narrative about a dysfunctional West Wing.
One of his missives came from Air Force One en route to Tampa, Fla., as Trump panned a New York Times report that detailed the friction inside his administration and its early stumbles.
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“The failing @nytimes writes total fiction concerning me. They have gotten it wrong for two years, and now are making up stories & sources!” Trump tweeted at 11:32 a.m., ignoring the fact that many of his top advisers were quoted by name in the story.
Trump seemed particularly incensed by reports and parodies about chief strategist Steve Bannon being the actual decision-maker in the White House.
“I call my own shots, largely based on an accumulation of data, and everyone knows it. Some FAKE NEWS media, in order to marginalize, lies!” Trump tweeted.
The message came at 7:01 a.m., 52 minutes after Joe Scarborough, whose MSNBC morning show the president is known to watch religiously, had suggested that “maybe Bannon’s calling all the shots.”
Scarborough’s comments — and Trump’s frustrations — are the outgrowth of a media narrative that has mushroomed over the last several days, initially with Bannon’s face gracing last week’s Time magazine cover, which declared him “The Great Manipulator,” and then in stinging satire on “Saturday Night Live” that presented Bannon as the real owner of the Resolute Desk.
The sketch comedy franchise opened with Alec Baldwin portraying the president in the Oval Office, where he was joined by Bannon, dressed in a grim reaper costume while indulging Trump’s worst impulses by encouraging his bellicosity during calls to foreign leaders.
The skit parodied reports of Trump’s poor statesmanship during phone calls with foreign leaders and brought to life The New York Times’ editorial board’s opinion last week — headlined “President Bannon?” — suggesting that the former Breitbart executive “is positioning himself … as the de facto president.”
In the story that drew Trump’s ire Monday, the Times also reported that Bannon is “the president’s dominant adviser, despite Mr. Trump’s anger that he was not fully briefed on details of the executive order he signed giving his chief strategist a seat on the National Security Council.”
Two weeks after an adviser memorably characterized the falsehoods coming from the White House as “alternative facts,” Trump is increasingly turning to his “fake news” line to try to puncture swelling storylines that are unflattering to his nascent presidency and counter the unfounded claims coming out of the White House. That’s despite the fact that not too long ago, Trump’s critics were the ones pushing the “fake news” term to describe false reports that proliferated on the internet during the presidential campaign to boost Trump’s candidacy.
Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s White House counsel, is caught up in her own “fake news” controversy after she cited last week a made-up terrorist attack in Bowling Green, Kentucky, to justify the administration’s highly controversial travel and refugee ban.
While she later called it an honest mistake and blasted other “fake” stories, Cosmopolitan magazine reported on Monday that Conway cited the same non-existent “massacre” in an interview with one of its reporters on Jan. 29.
Conway also sparred with CNN after reports emerged that the White House had offered to have her appear on its Sunday morning show and that CNN said no.
“False. I could do no live Sunday shows this week BC of family. Plus, I was invited onto CNN today & tomorrow. CNN Brass on those emails,” Conway tweeted.
CNN’s communications team then responded on Twitter pushing back against Conway’s explanation. “@KellyannePolls was offered to SOTU on Sunday by the White House. We passed. Those are the facts,” the message read.
Even right-leaning Fox News is questioning some of the baseless claims coming from Trump and his team. In the interview that aired as part of Sunday’s Super Bowl pregame show, Bill O’Reilly twice pressed Trump to back up his unfounded assertion about millions of illegal votes during last year’s election.
“You say things you can’t back up factually, and as the president, if you say, for example, that there are 3 million illegal aliens who voted and then you don’t have the data to back it up, some people are gonna say that it’s irresponsible for a president to say that,” O’Reilly said to Trump. “Is there any validity to that?”
“Many people have come out and said I’m right. You know that,” the president responded.
“I know, but you’ve gotta have data to back that up,” O’Reilly shot back.
Moments later, as the president repeated his unfounded claim, O’Reilly pressed again for more corroboration.
“A lot of people have come out and said that I am correct,” Trump said.
“But the data has to show that 3 million illegals voted,” O’Reilly countered.
“Forget that,” Trump said. “Forget all of that.”
And Trump’s obsession with the poll numbers also reared its head on Monday. Trump’s explanation for the shaky support of his presidency and his policies? Fake news.
“Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting,” he tweeted.