Hours after he called for unity in the wake of the attempted delivery of pipe bombs to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and CNN, U.S. President Donald Trump reverted to type, telling supporters at a Wisconsin rally that the news media needed to be less hostile and suggesting that his Democratic critics needed to stop questioning his morality.
Trump began his remarks in Mosinee, Wis. by condemning the pipe bomb scare as “an attack on our democracy itself,” and calling for all sides of the political spectrum to “come together in peace and harmony.”
The scripted message was a dissonant one for the president, who has repeatedly blasted his political opponents as criminals and argued that they will destroy the country if they win control of Congress in the midterms.
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But he then promptly took a couple of veiled barbs at his Democratic adversaries: “Those engaged in the political arena must stop treating political opponents as being morally defective. The language of moral condemnation and destructive routine… have to stop.
“No one should carelessly compare political opponents to historical villains, which is done often.”
Trump also appeared to allude to incidents of protesters confronting high-profile Republicans in restaurants and public places, saying, “We should not mob people in public spaces or destroy public property.”
While campaigning, Trump and leading Republican candidates have increasingly warned of a rising Democratic “mob” prepared to inflict physical harm upon its adversaries.
In separate incidents this year, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders were forced to leave restaurants in which they were dining after being confronted by detractors.
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Trump, who has frequently labelled stories he doesn’t like as “fake news” and dubbed many reporters “enemies of the people,” then turned his attention to the media.
“The media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and oftentimes false attacks and stories,” Trump said.
Meanwhile, press secretary Sanders criticized CNN after the network’s chief Jeff Zucker said earlier that Trump failed to understand the seriousness of his constant attacks on the media.
Sanders tweeted: “@realDonaldTrump asked Americans ‘to come together and send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message that acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the USA” Yet you chose to attack and divide. America should unite against all political violence.”
Mindful of the national context, Trump refrained from delivering some of his regular routine critical of Democrats like Clinton and California Rep. Maxine Waters — whose office was a target of two of the mail explosives — at the Wisconsin rally.
However, he also didn’t take any responsibility for the pipe bomb scare, amid increasing criticism that his hard-edged rhetoric has contributed to a potentially dangerous political climate.
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Trump had condemned the series of attempted attacks a few hours earlier, calling for unity and declaring that “acts or threats of political violence have no place in the United States.”
— With files from the Associated Press