While his staffers continue to insist he wants the press to focus on policy and his agenda, the president of the United States attacked a pair of cable television anchors for the third day in a row on Saturday, as part of a feud that has captured national headlines and horrified his fellow Republicans.
"I think the president would love for us all to focus on the legislative agenda a whole lot more," deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders told reporters on Thursday.
"I think that there are a lot of things happening in this world that, frankly, a lot of people would like to hear about," she said a day earlier, "whether it’s job growth, whether it’s deregulation, whether it’s tax reform, health care."
"I think a lot of those things deserve a lot more coverage than they get," she said.
Senior adviser Kellyanne Conway also said the media is too focused on attacking Trump.
"The president every single day is fighting for all Americans," she told Fox News on Friday, "including America’s women, millions of whom do not have health care, millions of whom are looking for jobs, millions of whom are one paycheck away from economic desperation. He's here to help them. It doesn’t get covered.”
Here's the thing, though: President Trump appears to be on a completely different page (at least according to his Twitter feed).
On Saturday, six out of his 11 tweets were attacks on various media outlets and personalities, including yet another missive assailing Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.
Trump's attacks on the MSNBC cohosts dominated headlines in the latter half of the week, overshadowing the implementation of his travel ban and continued Republican efforts to overhaul health care.
Lawmakers from both parties denounced the president on Thursday after he mocked Brzezinski as "crazy" and claiming she was once "bleeding badly from a face-lift" at his Mar-a-Lago club.
Many Republicans pleaded for Trump to show restraint on Twitter, but he followed this up on Friday with yet another tweet denouncing the "bad show."
The White House said Trump was merely defending himself from "the liberal media" and "Hollywood elites."
Trump aides routinely proclaim that his social media channels allow him to express himself without journalists. But since last Sunday, Trump has used his Twitter account to post 16 times about the media — more than any other subject.
And during an Independence Day address in Washington, DC, Saturday night, Trump once again doubled down on his media attacks. Though the event was billed as a rally to honor veterans, Trump devoted a substantial portion of his speech to bashing the press.
"The fake media is trying to silence us but we will not let them," Trump told a nearly packed audience at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. "The people know the truth. The fake media tried to stop us from going to the White House, but I’m president and they’re not.”
"The fact is the press destroyed themselves because they went too far. Instead of being subtle and smart, they used the hatchet and the people saw it right from the beginning," he added. "Their agenda is not your agenda."
It was all pretty on trend for Trump. Despite his representatives' insistence that he wants to focus on legislation, the president's priorities consistently include going after journalists who cover him.
On Saturday, CNN's Jake Tapper criticized the president's Twitter focus.
"Attacking media does nothing for the troop in harm's way, the hungry child in Appalachia or inner city, the unemployed factory worker," Tapper wrote.
In an apparent response, Trump fired off another blast against CNN Saturday afternoon, pinning a tweet suggesting he was thinking about changing his nickname for the network to "#FraudNewsCNN!"
This dual messaging from the White House — telling reporters to focus on policy, while also themselves not focusing on policy — has been around since the very beginning of the Trump administration.
Sean Spicer began his tenure as press secretary in January with an extraordinary and angry series of lies about the supposed "historic" crowd size at the president's inauguration — something that was easily verifiable as false.
He then lectured reporters for, in his view, not properly covering the hearings of Trump's nominee for CIA director, Mike Pompeo.
"That's what you guys should be writing and covering," Spicer said.
Nidhi Prakash is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York
Contact Nidhi Prakash at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grace Wyler is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Grace Wyler at email@example.com.
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