U.S. President Donald Trump’s war against the media reached new heights this week as he criticized the press as “fake, fake, disgusting news” and described journalists as “horrible, horrendous people” despite warnings that his vitriol could put lives in danger.
Speaking in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. at the 10,000-capacity Mohegan Sun Arena on Thursday, Trump spent nearly 20 minutes sounding off on his complaints against the press, including coverage of his 2016 election victory against Hillary Clinton, his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, dealings with NATO, and his trip to the U.K. and meeting with the Queen.
“Whatever happened to the free press? Whatever happened to honest reporting?” Trump asked as the crowd screamed and jeered at the press held in a pen near the back of the arena. “They don’t report it. They only make up stories.”
“They can make anything bad. Because they are the fake, fake, disgusting news,” Trump said.
Thursday’s attacks against the press followed on the heels of a raucous rally in Florida with chants of “fake news” and Trump’s repeated description of the media as “enemies of the people” meant to stoke anger and resentment.
Video showed CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta being berated as a “liar” and “traitor” by Trump supporters, who shoved middle fingers in his face and wore shirts with slogans such as, “f**k the media.”
WATCH: CNN reporter heckled at Trump rally
Trump’s attacks were condemned by members of the media as well as politicians and even drew a direct response from the United Nations.
“We cannot allow ourselves to shrug off President Trump’s attacks on the press. Ever. They are undemocratic and are at the point of inviting, even inciting, violence,” said veteran journalist Dan Rather in a social media post. “If violence ever comes to the press in this environment, President Trump will be personally accountable.”
Two experts on freedom of expression, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression David Kaye and Edison Lanza with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, said the attacks “run counter to the country’s obligations to respect press freedom and international human rights law.”
“His attacks are strategic, designed to undermine confidence in reporting and raise doubts about verifiable facts,” the experts said in a joint statement. “Two years is two years too much, and we strongly urge that President Trump and his administration and his supporters end these attacks.”
“We are especially concerned that these attacks increase the risk of journalists being targeted with violence.”
WATCH: Trump calls media ‘horrible, horrendous people’
The publisher of the New York Times also revealed this week that he personally warned the White House that the president’s verbal attacks could provoke violence and place lives in danger.
“I warned that it was putting lives at risk, that it was undermining the democratic ideals of our nation, and that it was eroding one of our country’s greatest exports: a commitment to free speech and a free press,” said A.G. Sulzberger.
The response came after Trump tweeted a claim that they had discussed the rise of fake news.
“Had a very good and interesting meeting at the White House with AG Sulzberger, Publisher of the New York Times,” he wrote. “Spent much time talking about the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, ‘Enemy of the People.’ Sad!”
As previously reported, Trump’s favourite term is widely being parroted around the world by authoritarian leaders from Syria, Myanmar, Venezuela and China to downplay atrocities and human rights violations.
Ironically, Trump’s embrace of the “enemy of the people” comes with a toxic history used by dictators “for the purpose of physically annihilating” individuals, according to the New York Times.
*With files from the Associated Press
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.