First Amendment Watch: December 2016

During his 2016 campaign for president, Donald Trump launched an unprecedented war on the press. Since his election, Media Matters has tracked his and his team’s continuing attacks on the media and their abandonment of presidential norms regarding press access, which poses a dangerous threat to our First Amendment freedoms. Following is a list of attacks President-elect Donald Trump made against the media -- and instances in which he demonstrated disregard for the press -- during the month of December 2016.

December 1

Trump Repeatedly Bashed “Dishonest” Media At Ohio Rally. President-elect Donald Trump held a rally in Ohio on December 1 to thank his supporters. During his speech, he repeatedly referred to the media as “dishonest.” From a transcript of Trump’s speech provided by The Independent:

DONALD TRUMP: Or how about North Carolina? How well did we do in North Carolina? Right?


Remember what they said. “He cannot win North Carolina. So we had just won Ohio, Iowa. And we had just won Florida. “Breaking news! Donald Trump has won Florida” They’re saying: “Woah!”


And we won it big. But then the people back there, the extremely dishonest press aid (sic), right?


Very dishonest people. How about, how about, I mean how dishonest? How about when a major anchor who hosted a debate started crying? When she realised we won?


Tears! “No, tell me this isn’t true!” And you know what she doesn’t understand? Things are gonna be much better now! She doesn’t understand.


I mean think of it. We won a landslide. That was a landslide. And we didn’t have the press. The press was brutal.


The dishonest press. “There is so road!” Folks, how many times did we hear this? “There is no path to 270. There is no path. There is no path.” [The Independent, 12/2/16]

December 5

Trump Claimed Press Wouldn’t Cover Him “Accurately & Honorably.”

December 7

Trump Dismissed Wash. Post Over Headline About His Tweet That Cost Boeing $1 Billion In Market Value. In a phone interview on NBC’s Today, Trump dismissed reporting by The Washington Post that corporate executives were concerned about his behavior after he sent out a tweet criticizing a Boeing contract. NBC host Matt Lauer explained that after Trump sent out his tweet, “the market value of Boeing dropped about a billion dollars in a matter of minutes before rebounding later in the day.” From the December 7 Today interview:

MATT LAUER (CO-HOST): After you criticized Boeing, The Washington Post has a headline today saying corporations are “unnerved” in this country. Let me go on to another segment -- go ahead.

DONALD TRUMP: Well, I think that's just The Washington Post, because no matter what you do, they'll never say good. [NBC, Today, 12/7/16; The Washington Post, 12/6/16]

Trump Defended Using Social Media To Bypass Press “Because So Many Reporters Are Dishonest.” From Trump’s December 7 Today phone interview:

MATT LAUER (HOST): Speaking of things that are appropriate, shortly after winning the election, you gave an interview and you talked about your use of Twitter. And you said that you were going to be much more restrained as the president, because you seemed to understand that perhaps having fights on Twitter would not be appropriate for the president. And I have not seen you backing off fights on Twitter. In the time since you were elected, you’ve targeted the cast of Hamilton, The New York Times, China, Boeing, the media, and SNL. Is this proving to be a habit that you're finding a difficult time breaking?

DONALD TRUMP: No, I think I am very restrained, and I talk about important things. I talk about, as you know recently, China, and the fact we talked about their devaluation, we talked about they’re building this massive military fortress in the middle of the South China Sea, which they're not supposed to be doing, and other things. And frankly, it's a modern day form of communication --

LAUER: Even when you're picking fights with it.

TRUMP: Between Facebook and Twitter, I have I guess more than 40 million people. And that's a modern day form of communication. I get it out much faster than a press release. I get it out much more honestly than dealing with dishonest reporters, because so many reporters are dishonest. [NBC, Today, 12/7/16]

December 10

Trump Blasted CNN Report, Seemingly Confirmed By Trump Adviser Kellyanne Conway, As “FAKE NEWS.” Trump attacked a CNN report which suggested he would work part time on NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice, where he will retain credit for being an executive producer. Trump’s former campaign manager and incoming White House counselor Kellyanne Conway defended Trump’s decision to remain involved with the show in an interview with CNN on December 9, saying that “presidents have a right to do things in their spare time.” In a December 10 tweet, Trump called the CNN report “FAKE NEWS.” [CNN, 12/9/16]

December 11

Trump Criticized Wall Street Journal Editorial Board: “I Don’t Think They Understand Business.” Trump criticized The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board when asked in a December 11 Fox News Sunday interview about his plans to interfere in the free market by penalizing companies that move jobs out of the country. Trump told host Chris Wallace that the paper’s “editorial board doesn’t get it,” adding, “I don’t think they understand business”:

DONALD TRUMP: There is no tax if you don't leave. There is no tax at all. People are saying -- they don't understand, really, what I'm doing. I read The Wall Street Journal the other day. Honestly, their editorial board doesn't get it. I don't think they understand business. I don't think the Wall Street Journal editorial board -- and I know some of them, they're really nice. I don't think they understand business. They don't understand what I'm saying. There's a 35 percent tax, but there is no tax if you don't move. But if you move your plant or factory, and you want to sell back into our country, you fire all your people, there are going to be consequences for that. [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday, 12/11/16]

Trump Attacked NBC Nightly News On Twitter As “So Biased, Inaccurate And Bad,” Saying CNN Is Almost As Bad.

December 13

Trump Claimed Media “Were Devastated” By His Election After Rally Crowd Chanted “CNN Sucks,” Adding, “They Are Very Dishonest People.” During a rally in Milwaukee, WI, Trump made a comment about media correcting him, and his supporters began loudly chanting, “CNN sucks.” Trump then suggested the media “were devastated” by his election victory. After mentioning that he avoided interviews for the last month of the election campaign, he said reporters “are very dishonest people.” Later in the rally, he claimed reporters could have called his Pennsylvania win earlier on election night, but didn’t “because they’re dishonest people.” [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 12/13/16, 12/13/16]

December 15

Trump Slammed Vanity Fair Following Publication Of Critical Review Of Trump Tower Restaurant. The day after Vanity Fair published a critical review of Trump Grill, suggesting that it was possibly “the worst restaurant in America,” Trump attacked the magazine, saying it has “really poor numbers” and that editor Graydon Carter has “no talent” and “will be out!” [Vanity Fair, 12/14/16]

Trump Berated CNN During A Pennsylvania Rally. According to Philadelphia Daily News columnist Will Bunch, Trump decried “‘the dishonest media’” at his Hershey, PA, rally and made “various jibes at CNN and its reporters like Jon King, whose ‘hands were shaking,’ the president-elect insisted, as he announced that Trump was ahead” on Election Day. [, 12/16/16]

December 16

Trump Repeatedly Called Reporters “Very Dishonest” And Baselessly Claimed Media Distorted Exit Polls At Florida Rally. CNN reported that during a rally in Orlando, FL, Trump “repeatedly called reporters ‘very dishonest’ and suggested without evidence that the media distorted exit polls on Election Day.” [CNN, 12/16/16]

December 17

Trump Attacked Palm Beach Post Over Rally Attendance Estimates, Media’s Exit Polling, And Called NY Times Columnist Paul Krugman “Demented.” According to The Daily Caller, during a rally in Mobile, AL, Trump accused The Palm Beach Post of lying about the attendance at a rally he held the previous day in Orlando, FL. He also accused media outlets of trying to “depress the vote” through exit polling and, according to Fox & Friends Sunday, attacked “failing New York Times” columnist Paul Krugman as a “clown” and “demented.” [The Daily Caller, 12/17/16; Fox News, Fox & Friends Sunday, 12/18/16]

December 19

Following Electoral College Vote, Trump Claimed His Victory Came “Despite All Of The Distorted And Inaccurate Media.”

December 24

Trump Accused “Dishonest” NBC News Of “Purposely” Truncating His Quote On Nuclear Weapons.

December 26

Trump Attacked Reporting On His Fraudulent Foundation. Trump defended the Donald J. Trump Foundation on Twitter amid reporting that the foundation admitted to illegal activity and that he hadn’t contributed any money to it for a period of five years, saying the media “won’t report” on the “millions” he gave to and raised for the foundation. [The Washington Post, 12/27/16]

December 30

Trump Tweeted That “Russians Are Playing @CNN And @NBCNews For Such Fools.”

December 31

Trump Ditched Press Pool To Go Golfing. The Associated Press reported that on December 31, Trump ditched his press pool for a round of golf at his Jupiter, FL, golf club:

President-elect Donald Trump has ditched his press pool once again — this time traveling to play golf at his club in Jupiter, Florida, without a pool of journalists on hand to ensure the public has knowledge of his whereabouts.

A club member posted a photo on Twitter of Trump on the greens Saturday morning and said the president-elect was accompanied by about 25 U.S. Secret Service agents. Reporters had not been advised of the visit.

Transition aide Stephanie Grisham confirmed that Trump had made a “last minute trip” to Trump National Golf Club Jupiter, which is about a half-hour drive from the Mar-a-Lago estate, where Trump has been spending the holidays.


Trump, both as a candidate and during the transition, has often scoffed at tradition, such as allowing a group of reporters to follow him at all times, to ensure the public knows where he is. Not long after his election, Trump went out to dinner with his family in Manhattan without informing the pool of his whereabouts.

The practice is meant to ensure that journalists are on hand to witness, on behalf of the public, the activities of the president or president-elect, rather than relying on secondhand accounts.

The White House also depends on having journalists nearby at all times to relay the president's first comments on breaking news. [The Associated Press, 12/31/16]