U.S. President Donald Trump capped off a bizarre Wednesday morning of Twitter acitivity, which included retweeting videos from a British hate group, by calling for a boycott of CNN. The call is a clear escalation in his fight against the television network as his administration fights AT&T Inc’s deal to buy CNN’s owner Time Warner Inc.
Later Wednesday morning Trump also attacked MSNBC news head Phil Griffin and floated a conspiracy theory about MSNBC host Joe Scarborough. Trump tweeted, referencing the firing of Matt Lauer which was also announced in the morning, "So now that Matt Lauer is gone when will the Fake News practitioners at NBC be terminating the contract of Phil Griffin? And will they terminate low ratings Joe Scarborough based on the “unsolved mystery” that took place in Florida years ago? Investigate!"
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Trump was apparently referring to the 2001 death of Joe Scarborough's intern, which was deemed by the medical examiner at the time as related to heart problems, with no sign of foul play. CNN anchor Jake Tapper offered a scathing critique of Trump's tweet:" This is the president attempting to exploit the tragic death of a young woman — one who had heart problems and hit her head when she fell — to score a cheap spurious political point. Indecent. Inhumane."
The president, who regularly assails mainstream media, has long criticized CNN, calling the network “fake news” and saying he no longer watches it, while lauding rival Fox News. His call for a boycott appeared to be a step up in his attacks.
“Great, and we should boycott Fake News CNN. Dealing with them is a total waste of time!,” Trump wrote in a Twitter post.
Trump was responding to a post by his spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, who in her own post on Tuesday night praised reports that CNN would not attend an annual holiday party held at the White House for news media.
It was not immediately clear if Trump in his post was calling for a wider boycott against CNN or one by White House staff. Representatives for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Representatives for CNN also did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s tweet on Wednesday. A CNN spokesperson told Politico that it would not attend the party “in light of the President’s continued attacks on freedom of the press and CNN” but would send a reporting crew to cover the event, Politico reported on Tuesday.
The network and its journalists have repeatedly defended CNN’s work against previous presidential attacks.
The Department of Justice’s challenge is unusual move given that pay TV and wireless company AT&T does not directly compete with TV show maker Time Warner. The department has said the lawsuit is a law enforcement decision, not a political one.