US president Donald Trump has sparked outrage after he tweeted a video of himself punching a man with a CNN logo for a head at an annual professional wrestling event on Sunday morning.
The 28-second clip the president shared with his 33m followers is an altered version of a former appearance at a WWE wrestling event in 2007.
At the time, he attacked the WWE CEO Vince McMahon as part of a staged stunt.
CNN issued a statement in response to the tweet accusing the president of “encouraging violence against reporters”.
“It is a sad day when the president of the United States encourages violence against reporters. Clearly, [deputy White House press secretary] Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied when she said the president had never done so,” CNN said in the statement. “Instead of preparing for his overseas trip, his first meeting with Vladimir Putin, dealing with North Korea and working on his healthcare bill, he is instead involved in juvenile behaviour far below the dignity of his office. We will keep doing our jobs. He should start doing his.”
However, Trump’s homeland security adviser, Thomas Bossert, defended the video when he saw it for the first time during a broadcast interview on ABC News. Bossert said:
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No one would perceive that as a threat. I hope they don’t. He’s a genuine president expressing himself genuinely.
In a speech on Saturday, before posting inflammatory tweet, Trump stood by his consistent attack on the press.
“The fake media tried to stop us from going to the White House. But I’m president, and they’re not,
Verdict takes a look at the reaction to the video posted by the president on his Twitter feed
Former editor of The Guardian Alan Rusbridger said Trump’s tweet was “terrifying and horrible”.
Imagine the President of the US taking the time to make this…violently beating up the media. How terrifying and horrible https://t.co/oGXOeyL1K1
— alan rusbridger (@arusbridger) 2 July 2017
Peter Baker, the chief White House correspondent for the New York Times said that the Trump administration had contradicted itself after claiming that the president doesn’t “encourage violence against reporters”.
After a spokeswoman says Trump doesn’t encourage violence against reporters, he retweets a mock video showing him beating a man labeled CNN.
— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) 2 July 2017
One panellist on ABC‘s morning show, Ana Navarro, went so far as to call the tweet “an incitement to violence”.
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) 2 July 2017
David Frum, a senior editor at The Atlantic recommended donating to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a US-based organisation promoting press freedom and defending the rights of journalists.
On 2nd thoughts, no jokes. Just send $20 today to the Committee to Protect Journalists. https://t.co/tGj1DjrB1p
— David Frum (@davidfrum) 2 July 2017
The violent video clip was submitted to a forum dedicated to the US president on the social media site Reddit four days before Trump tweeted it out himself.
“Targeting individual journalists or media outlets, on- or off-line, creates a chilling effect and fosters an environment where further harassment, or even physical attack, is deemed acceptable,” Courtney Radsch, the advocacy director for the CPJ, wrote in a statement on Sunday.
Last week, Trump criticised MSNBC hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough. His attack on Brzezinski focused on her appearance, prompting widespread outrage.