In an extraordinary exchange on Friday, President Donald Trump viciously attacked an NBC News reporter who asked what his message would be to Americans who are frightened by the coronavirus pandemic that is spreading across the country.
The exchange, which occurred at the White House’s daily coronavirus task force briefing, began when NBC News reporter Peter Alexander asked Trump whether he was giving Americans “false hope” by touting unproven coronavirus drugs.
Toward the end of the exchange, Alexander cited the latest pandemic statistics showing thousands of Americans are now infected and millions are scared.
Alexander asked, “What do you say to Americans who are scared?”
Trump, shaking his head, ripped into Alexander in response.
“I say that you are a terrible reporter,” Trump replied. “That’s what I say.”
The President proceeded to launch into an extended rant against Alexander, saying he asked a “nasty question” and assailing NBC and its parent company, Comcast.
“You’re doing sensationalism,” Trump charged. “And the same with NBC and Comcast. I don’t call it Comcast. I call it ‘Con-Cast.’”
“Let me just tell you something,” Trump added. “That’s really bad reporting. And you ought to get back to reporting instead of sensationalism.”
Moments later, Kaitlan Collins, a White House correspondent for CNN, asked Trump if it was appropriate to embark on tirades against members of the news media during a public health crisis.
“You see yourself as a wartime President right now, leading the country through a pandemic that we are experiencing,” Collins noted. “Do you think going off on Peter, going off on a network is appropriate when the country is going through something like this?”
Trump defended his verbal assault on Alexander, saying he’s “not a good journalist” and launching into another rant against him.
“Coming together is much harder when we have dishonest journalists,” Trump said.
Alexander said in a statement that he was “trying to provide the president an opportunity to reassure the millions of Americans, members of my own family and my neighbors and my community and plenty of people sitting at home, this was his opportunity to do that, to provide a positive or uplifting message. Instead, you saw the president’s answer to that question right now.”
“The bottom line is, this is a president whose experiences in life are very different than most Americans across this country right now,” Alexander said. “Not a person who likely worries about finances or had, not a person who in the course of his life is worried about his future, not a person who is worried about where to find a paycheck for his bills or for his rent and as evidenced by the president suggesting that an opportunity to provide for American some reassurance about how they should feel right now, the president instead took it out on me.”
Chuck Todd, Alexander’s NBC News colleague and host of “Meet the Press,” weighed on the matter, praising him for his “professionalism.”
“I wish people on the on the other side of the podium had the same professionalism as well, so thank you, Peter,” Todd said.
After striking a somber tone earlier in the week, Trump in recent days has returned to his usual attacks against the press.
At Thursday’s coronavirus press briefing, Trump smeared The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.
“They’re very dishonest,” Trump claimed.
Trump then praised a far-right media outlet, saying it is “very good” and noting, “They treat me very nicely.”
The right-wing personality from that media outlet falsely said major newsrooms had “teamed up” with the Chinese Communist Party to attack Trump.
The person then asked, “Is it alarming that major media players that just oppose you are consistently siding with foreign state propaganda, Islamic radicals and Latin gangs and cartels?”
Instead of rebuking the right-wing personality for the question, Trump on Thursday boasted that he had canceled the White House’s subscriptions to the country’s major newspapers.
“It amazes me when I read the things that I read,” Trump said Thursday. “It amazes me when I read The Wall Street Journal which is so negative and The New York Times, I barely read it. We don’t distribute it in the White House, and the same with The Washington Post.”