Ex-CIA Chief Says Trump Anti-Press Rhetoric Is "Un-American"

"His rhetoric too frequently fuels incidents that are now bleeding over into acts of violence," John Brennan said of the president during a talk at a Texas university.

Former CIA chief John Brennan called President Donald Trump's anti-media rhetoric "counterproductive" and "un-American" while speaking at an event in Texas on Wednesday night, hours after a pipe bomb was mailed to Brennan himself at CNN headquarters in New York. Brennan has appeared on the network but is a contributor to NBC News and MSNBC.

"Unfortunately I think Donald Trump too often has helped to incite some of these feelings of anger, if not violence, when he points to acts of violence or also talks about swinging at somebody from the press, the media," Brennan said of Wednesday's pipe bomb scares. "That's why I have spoken out so strongly, some would say very stridently, because of what I think is a continued failure on the part of Donald Trump to live up to what I think should be all our expectations about what an American president should be doing, especially in times like this."

The ex-CIA chief, who served in the agency from March 2013 to January 2017 and served as a Homeland Security Advisor to former President Barack Obama, continued, "His rhetoric too frequently fuels incidents that are now bleeding over into acts of violence. ... It's clear that this rhetoric is counterproductive. It is un-American."

The former CIA director discussed Wednesday's bomb threats during an event at the LBJ Library at the University of Texas at Austin, where Brennan is a senior adviser to the Intelligence Studies Project and distinguished scholar.

In addition to Brennan and CNN, suspicious packages were mailed to Obama, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Democratic Party funder George Soros on Wednesday. Another package was intended to reach former attorney general Eric Holder but was addressed to the wrong place.

On Wednesday, El Segundo police also responded to the Los Angeles Times on the report of a suspicious package.

Added Brennan, "What [Trump] said today is what the president should be doing but follow up on those actions, and I hope this is a turning point," referring to Trump's remarks on Wednesday that the threats were "despicable acts."

CNN chief Jeff Zucker also blasted Trump's rhetoric on the media on Wednesday, saying in a statement, "There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media. The president, and especially the White House press secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that."

At another point during his talk in Texas, Brennan said of Trump's rhetoric, "This is something that I think all Americans who cherish our freedoms and our liberties really should be outraged over, and try to do everything possible to bring the level of discourse down so that we are able to engage in a very constructive and productive way to make sure that this country is able to realize its full potential, including on the political front."