Media Calls Out Trump's Germophobe Claim, CNN Attack and Tax Return Refusal After Presser
"Isn't this how book burning begins?"
Donald Trump held his first news conference as president-elect on Wednesday, officially addressing reporters for the first time in 168 days.
Trump announced that he will not be divesting his ownership in The Trump Organization and that the business will be overseen by his two sons, Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump (though he said if they don't prove up to task, he will tell them "You're fired" when his presidency is done).
The conference was initially scheduled so Trump could announce how he plans to separate his business from the presidency, but much of the focus instead shifted to the release of an intelligence report and an unverified synopsis containing salacious claims that was published by BuzzFeed the day prior.
Trump, as well as his incoming press secretary Sean Spicer and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, began the presser by blasting BuzzFeed for running the unverified report. The president-elect subsequently engaged in a shouting match with CNN's Jim Acosta, who was in the room, over CNN's handling of the story. Pointing his finger, he labeled Acosta as "fake news" and refused to call on him to answer a question. (In a statement, CNN said after the press conference that Trump is "using BuzzFeed's decision to deflect from CNN's reporting, which has been matched by the other major news organizations.")
Trump continued to deny the intel allegations that he had dealings with Russia. While he didn't directly address the most controversial item of the leaked report, the president-elect said he warned his staff to be vigilant while on Moscow's soil and joked, "I'm also a germophobe, by the way."
Later Wednesday night, Trump tweeted: "We had a great News Conference at Trump Tower today. A couple of FAKE NEWS organizations were there but the people truly get what's going on."
The media was quick to call out Trump's treatment of Acosta as well as his overall treatment of the free press during the news conference. The president-elect also repeated his refusal to release his tax returns, claiming only reporters care to see them, which spurred many outside the media, including singer Lily Allen, to call on Trump to release them.
The New York Times' Michael Barbaro said he'd "never seen anything like" Trump's exchange with Acosta, "ever," and The Hollywood Reporter's Janice Min directed users to a 2015 interview in which Trump said flatly, "I'm not a germophobe." CNN correspondent Ana Navarro said Saturday Night Live should be "epic" this week, and many reporters criticized the other journalists in the room who didn't stand by Acosta.
Fox News' Shepard Smith defended CNN on air, saying, "neither they, nor any other journalists, should be objected to belittling and delegitimizing by the president-elect of the United States."
Many celebrities and politicians also reacted to the press conference.
Congressman Adam Schiff quoted Trump when he tweeted "CNN is 'disgraceful.' Buzzfeed is a 'failing pile of garbage.' He invokes Nazi Germany ... but isn't this how book burning begins?"
After Trump stood by his plans to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, former Mexico President Vicente Fox took to Twitter to call Trump a dictator. "After #TrumpPressConference, it's clear that we're facing a new era of dictatorship with @realDonaldTrump. He's not a democratic leader," he tweeted.
See some of the reactions from the press via social media below.
Pleased with our new tag line pic.twitter.com/sFCMrX91qO— Luke Lewis (@lukelewis) January 11, 2017
'I'm very much a germaphobe'— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) January 11, 2017
- Trump denies Watergate 2.
Editor @BuzzFeedBen tells me they're "not going to participate in an attempt to divide the media against each other" following CNN criticism— Michael Calderone (@mlcalderone) January 11, 2017
Media story from 2018: "It's not just about cat GIFs and listicles anymore, BuzzFeed's staff are now prisoners at an off-shore work camp..."— Ryan Broderick (@broderick) January 11, 2017
If the press allows Trump to ostracize any legit news org--buzzfeed, cnn, anyone--based on tone of coverage, we won't have a free press.— Mazel Tov Cocktail (@AdamSerwer) January 11, 2017
PEOTUS accuses the Intel community of Nazi tactics? Wow. Where does this lead?— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) January 11, 2017
If Trump refuses to answer a reporter's question because he doesn't like their outlet, the next reporter should ask the same question.— Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) January 11, 2017
Well, folks, we're all alive to witness dictatorship in motion. #trumppressconference— Grace Parra (@GraceParra360) January 11, 2017
Thank you to the press for doing your job.— andy lassner (@andylassner) January 11, 2017
You are not fake.
Never stop hammering him.
You are our only hope.
Fortunately ABC's Cecilia Vega asked my question about whether any Trump associates contacted Russians. Trump said no.— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) January 11, 2017
That exchange between the president elect and @Acosta was remarkable. Never seen anything like that, ever.— Michael Barbaro (@mikiebarb) January 11, 2017
Good for my colleague @Acosta pressing. PEOTUS answered "I'm not going to give you a question"— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) January 11, 2017
Anyone who cares about journalism should applaud @Acosta - nice work, Jim— Ed O'Keefe (@nowthised) January 11, 2017
I can't believe the other reporters aren't deferring to @acosta to let him ask his question. What the hell?— Joan Walsh (@joanwalsh) January 11, 2017
Hey White House press corps. Stop asking questions until @Acosta gets his in.— Kurt Gessler (@kurtgessler) January 11, 2017
#SNL will be EPIC this week. Only thing Alec Baldwin has to do, is read transcript of this press conference. Make Germaphobes Great Again!— Ana Navarro (@ananavarro) January 11, 2017
Trump is a germaphobe.— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) January 11, 2017
There. It's settled.#TrumpPressConference
8:20 p.m. Updated with Donald Trump's tweet.