US President Donald Trump launched a fresh attack on the news media Sunday, tweeting a video — bizarre even by his standards — showing him knocking down and beating a professional wrestling “villain” whose face had been replaced by a CNN logo.
The 10-year-old video, hailing back to Trump’s days as a guest celebrity at pro-wrestling events, came after a week in which his unbridled Twitter attacks on two MSNBC talk show hosts drew widespread condemnation from members of both political parties.
In the 28-second clip, Trump, dressed in a suit, is seen knocking down another man in a suit who is standing next to a wrestling ring. Trump then pummels the man, whose face is covered by the CNN logo, repeatedly over the head.
At the end of the video, a fake CNN logo appears in the lower right corner of the screen with the words “FNN: Fraud News Network.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 2, 2017
A longer version of the same video found online shows that the man knocked down was World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) owner-promoter Vince McMahon, a friend of Trump’s.
In the longer version, McMahon next appears in a chair in the middle of the ring, his wrists being tied down as Trump takes an electric razor to shave McMahon’s head bald.
The stunt was part of a promotion at the WrestleMania 23 event dubbed “The Battle of the Billionaires,” with each man agreeing to let the other shave his head if his wrestler lost.
McMahon was present at the White House in February to pose smilingly with the president when his wife Linda McMahon — herself a former WWE executive, and Trump’s nominee to head the Small Business Administration — was sworn into office.
Although some interpreted the tweet as a veiled threat against the network, a Trump adviser told Associated Press that “no one would perceive that as a threat. I hope they don’t.”
White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert told ABC that he thought Trump has been “beaten up in a way on cable platforms that he has a right to respond to.”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said last week Trump “in no way, form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence.”
CNN blasted the video as a threat to violence from the president.
“It is a sad day when the President of the United States encourages violence against reporters,” the network said in a statement. “Instead of preparing for his overseas trip, his first meeting with Vladimir Putin, dealing with North Korea and working on his health care bill, he is instead involved in juvenile behavior far below the dignity of his office.”
The statement concluded by saying, “We will keep doing our jobs. He should start doing his.”
CNN statement responding to the president: "We will keep doing our jobs. He should start doing his." pic.twitter.com/Gn1YRA2DRG
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) July 2, 2017
Trump has been unrepentant after a string of tweets against CNN, NBC and a morning show host he taunted as “dumb as a rock,” in the past few days, which drew widespread criticism, including from within the Republican Party.
On Saturday the president, who has over 33 million followers Twitter, wrote, “I am extremely pleased to see that @CNN has finally been exposed as #FakeNews and garbage journalism. It’s about time!”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 1, 2017
He also tweeted that the network, which he has long pilloried, “has finally been exposed as #FakeNews and garbage journalism.”
He seemed to defend his tweets on Saturday night, writing, “My use of social media is not Presidential – it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL. Make America Great Again!”
My use of social media is not Presidential – it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL. Make America Great Again!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 1, 2017
“The FAKE & FRAUDULENT NEWS MEDIA is working hard to convince Republicans and others I should not use social media — but remember, I won the 2016 election with interviews, speeches and social media,” Trump said on Twitter.
“I had to beat #FakeNews, and did. We will continue to WIN!” he posted, before ending the day at a rally in Washington that included a similar anti-media barrage.
In recent days, the US leader has railed against major news organizations as “fake news,” and launched a crude personal attack on Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, who headline the “Morning Joe” program on the left-leaning MSNBC cable network.
“Crazy Joe Scarborough and dumb as a rock Mika are not bad people, but their low rated show is dominated by their NBC bosses. Too bad!” he wrote Saturday, seemingly trying to get in the final word in his clash with the journalists.
Apparently stung by critical coverage on the show, Trump on Thursday had tweeted: “I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore).
“Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!”
On Thursday Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, criticized the president for his tweets.
“Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America.”
Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) June 29, 2017