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With CNN’s New York office still evacuated after a bomb was found in the Time Warner Center, longtime anchor Wolf Blitzer said it was unlikely that President Donald Trump would make clear that people should not act on his hostile language toward the media and politicians.
“For him to acknowledge, for him to say, ‘You know what, I apologize, I was wrong, I didn’t mean it, and those who think along the lines of what I was suggesting and are taking these kind of dastardly steps, please don’t do it,’ that’s not in his nature,” Blitzer said Wednesday.
In response, Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed said, “He has to stand up personally, not through a Twitter message or endorsing someone else’s statement. He has to begin to raise the tenor of comments about public life here. … He has to now stand up as a president and call us all to a much higher level of conduct and debate and discussion.”
“The president is responsible for the rhetoric here,” said CNN reporter Jeff Zeleny.
CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Wednesday afternoon argued that hyperbole is rampant in media. “You can say CNN was targeted because of what it does, but if that’s true, there should be a lot of other people targeted,” he said.
On MSNBC, daytime anchor Ali Velshi criticized the White House for demonizing the media and setting a bad example.
“I think about [Saudi journalist] Jamal Khashoggi, and I think when we get into a world where it’s OK to call the media the enemy of the people, it does free up people who may have nothing to do with this to say, ‘Hey, I can attack the media,'” he said. “[Journalists] are just people who want to get the news out. You may not like a particular position CNN or MSNBC or Fox is taking, but we’re all journalists. And when you cross that line and allow it to be permissible to attack journalists — and this is not personal, because we have good security and we try to stay safe — but when you go down that road, it becomes permissible to do things. We’re doing it on the international level with the failure to condemn Saudi Arabia [for Khashoggi’s murder], and we’re doing it on a daily level at these rallies where we talk about the press being the enemy of the people.”
After President Trump briefly addressed the suspicious packages at a White House event, a panel on MSNBC noted the relative restraint in his remarks compared to his often bombastic style at rallies and on social media.
Velshi said he was “glad” that Vice President Mike Pence and several people close to Trump had already condemned the acts, but he quickly returned to the idea of dangerous rhetoric.
“I’m not suggesting this is necessarily politically motivated. I’m suggesting that once you create an environment in which some things are acceptable, and you create the idea of enemies or danger, then you can’t be puzzled by the fact that someone might do something,” he said.
Retiring Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, who has emerged as a critic of Fox News host Sean Hannity and “overheated rhetoric” in general, castigated the president’s anti-media language on CNN. “The president shouldn’t refer to the press as ‘the enemy of the people,'” he said. “We all need to watch the rhetoric that we use. It makes a difference. People hear that and they follow it.”
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