Donald Trump’s favorite news channel, Fox News, has blasted the US president for “crossing the line” in criticizing the American media, praising his predecessor Barack Obama for taking more subtle jabs at journalists critical of his work.
On Friday, Trump blasted the New York Times, and broadcast news networks CNN, NBC, ABC and CBS as “fake news media” and called them “the enemy of American people.”
In an interview with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on Sunday, Fox anchor Chris Wallace made it clear that Fox News, despite being complimented by Trump, was not on the president’s side.
“Look, we’re big boys. We criticize presidents. They want to criticize us back, that’s fine,” he told Priebus. “But when he said that the fake news media is not my enemy, it’s the enemy of the American people, I believe that crosses an important line.”
Priebus tried to defend Trump by arguing that the press were covering scandals of the new administration and willfully ignored the accomplishments.
“The next 20 hours is all about Russian spies, how no one gets along, how nothing’s happening… Give me a break,” he said.
Wallace responded by comparing Trump’s attacks with Obama’s criticism of conservative networks like Fox News.
“You don’t get to tell us what to do any more than Barack Obama did,” he told Priebus. “Barack Obama whined about Fox News all the time, but I got to say, he never said we were an enemy of the people.”
“Lord knows, Barack Obama criticized Fox News. If Donald Trump wants to criticize the New York Times, that’s fine. But it’s different from saying that we are an enemy of the American people. That’s a different thing,” he continued.
The branding has put Trump in a difficult position, where even the members of his administration and other major Republican figures have tried to distance themselves from him.
In a stark break with Trump, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Sunday that he had no problems with the media.
“I’ve had some rather contentious times with the press,” the Pentagon chief told reporters during a trip to Abu Dhabi on Sunday, according Reuters. “The press, as far as I’m concerned, are a constituency that we deal with, and I don’t have any issues with the press myself.”
Arizona Senator John McCain, a fierce Trump critic, has warned the president that the move resembles the first steps of a dictator.
“That’s how dictators get started,” he told NBC. “When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press.”