First Amendment Watch: January 2017

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 Trump and his team made against the media -- and instances in which they demonstrated disregard for the press -- from January 1, 2017, up to his January 20 inauguration as president.

January 4

Trump Endorsed Julian Assange’s Statement That U.S. Media Coverage Is “Very Dishonest,” Adding: “More Dishonest Than Anyone Knows.”

Trump Claimed Media Gave The Democratic National Committee “A Pass” On Contents Of Hacked Emails.

January 5

Trump Claimed “Dishonest Media” Pushed “Lies” About His Stance On Intelligence Community Assessment That Russia Hacked DNC And Gave Documents To WikiLeaks.

January 6

Trump Attacked “Dishonest” Media For Reporting That His Team Said He Wants Congress To Pay For Construction Of Border Wall. Trump attacked media reports citing House Republican officials who said Trump’s transition team indicated that he wants Congress to fund the construction of a wall on the Southern border. He later tweeted that the money would be “paid back by Mexico.” [, 1/6/17]

Incoming White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway Lashed Out At The “Dishonest Media” Over Reports On The Payment For Southern Border Wall. The hosts of Fox News’ Fox & Friends asked incoming White House counselor and former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway about Trump’s tweet from earlier in the day, and she said it “was engendered by -- you have people in the media, the dishonest media, as Donald Trump calls them -- Brian, making the suggestion that he’s going back on a campaign promise. That is not true. He’s going to build that wall, and Mexico is going to pay for it. That hasn’t changed.”

On Twitter, Trump Called For Congressional Investigation Into Sources Of NBC Reporting On Intelligence About Russian Election Interference.

January 8

Trump Press Secretary Sean Spicer: “Some Reporters ... Ignore Some Facts,” “And That Is Dishonest.” When asked by Fox News’ Howard Kurtz whether he thinks “the media lie and are intentionally dishonest,” incoming Trump press secretary Sean Spicer replied, “I think some reporters clearly have a bias,” adding, “Some reporters … ignore some facts” so their stories can “generate more retweets or clicks,” which is “dishonest”:

HOWARD KURTZ (HOST): My question for you is, you've dealt with reporters for years. You're a veteran spokesman, you're very good at this. Do you think the media lie and are intentionally dishonest?

SEAN SPICER: Well I think some reporters clearly have a bias and choose to only look at part of the story, so there's no question about it. But as you said, I've been doing this for a long time, thank you for the compliment. But I also believe that some reporters have chosen to look at the clickbait model of reporting, which is, ignore some facts because more will be sensational and will generate more retweets or clicks, and I think that is dishonest. The job of a good reporter is to make sure that you put all of the facts out there, report the entire story in context, and I think for some reporters, they would rather overlook certain facts because the story might not be as glamorous and sensational.

Trump Criticized NBC’s Meet The Press (“Dishonest Media”) For Airing Only Part Of An Interview With Conway.

Trump: “Media Is Fake” For Reporting That His Team Said He Wants Congress To Pay For Border Wall Construction.

January 9

Trump Blamed “Very Dishonest Media” For Meryl Streep Speech Blasting Him At Golden Globe Awards. After actress Meryl Streep criticized Trump at the January 8 Golden Globes Awards for mocking a reporter with a disability during his run for the presidency, Trump responded on Twitter by denying that he mocked the reporter -- despite video of the November 2015 incident. Trump also blamed the “very dishonest media” for saying he had. From NBC News:

The “Florence Foster Jenkins” star also called out Trump's infamous mimicking of a disabled New York Times reporter earlier last year, which many have argued was a deliberate attempt to mock members of that community. Trump has denied mocking the reporter.

“It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I can't get it out of my head, because it wasn't in a movie. It was real life,” Streep said. "And this instinct, to humiliate, when it's modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody's life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing.

“Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose,” she added. “We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call him on the carpet for every outrage.” [, 1/9/17; YouTube, 11/25/15]

January 10

Trump Attorney General Nominee Refused To Commit To Not Jailing Journalists For Reporting Leaks. In his confirmation hearing, Trump’s pick for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), refused to commit to not jailing journalists while probing government leaks. As The Huffington Post reported:

In questioning Sessions, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) recalled how her father was a newspaper reporter and said she believed the press “is essential to our democracy.” She noted how former Attorney General Eric Holder revised the agency’s rules in 2015 for when federal prosecutors could subpoena journalists or their records and affirmed while in that position that he wouldn’t jail reporters for doing their jobs.

“If confirmed, will you commit to following the standards already in place at the Justice Department and will you make that commitment not to put reporters in jail for doing their jobs?” Klobuchar asked.

“I’m not sure,” Sessions responded. “I have not studied those regulations.” [The Huffington Post, 1/10/17]

Trump Blasted Reports On Alleged Russian Efforts To Compromise Him As “FAKE NEWS.” CNN reported that “classified documents presented last week to President Obama and Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.” According to the report, the FBI is investigating whether the allegations are accurate and credible. BuzzFeed News later publicly released a dossier containing the allegations against Trump, while explaining that they are “unverified” and contain known errors. After both reports were published, Trump wrote a tweet that seemed to address the reports in which called them “FAKE NEWS.” [, 1/11/17; BuzzFeed News, 1/10/17]

January 11

Conway On Dossier Of Allegations: “You Have News Sources … Violating Basic Journalistic Standards.” On CBS This Morning, Conway discussed the media reports about the intelligence dossier, saying, “You have some news sources going over -- I think, really violating basic journalistic standards.”

Spicer Opened Press Conference By Slamming CNN And BuzzFeed. Spicer opened Trump’s January 11 press conference by dismissing BuzzFeed as a “left-wing blog that was openly hostile to the president-elect's campaign” and lumped its publication of the unverified dossier together with CNN’s reporting as a “sad and pathetic attempt to get clicks.” Spicer concluded by invoking “fake news” and calling it a “political witch hunt by some in the media” that is “based on some of the most flimsy reporting, and is frankly shameful and disgraceful.” From Trump’s press conference:

SEAN SPICER: Before we start, I want to bring your attention to a few points on the report that was published in BuzzFeed last night. It's frankly outrageous and highly irresponsible for a left-wing blog that was openly hostile to the president-elect's campaign to drop highly salacious and flat-out false information on the internet just days before he takes the oath of office. According to BuzzFeed's own editor, there are some serious reasons to doubt the allegations in the report. The executive editor of The New York Times also dismissed the report by saying it was, quote, “totally unsubstantiated,” echoing the concerns that many other reporters expressed on the internet. The fact that BuzzFeed and CNN made the decision to run with this unsubstantiated claim is a sad and pathetic attempt to get clicks.


SPICER: For all the talk lately about fake news, this political witch hunt by some in the media is based on some of the most flimsy reporting, and is frankly shameful and disgraceful.

Vice President-Elect Mike Pence: “There’s Been ... . A Concerted Effort By Some In The Mainstream Media To Delegitimize This Election And To Demean Our Incoming Administration.” Before introducing Trump at the press conference, Vice President-elect Mike Pence blasted the press, saying there has “been such a concerted effort by some in the mainstream media to delegitimize this election and to demean our incoming administration.” Pence slammed news organizations for running “a false and unsubstantiated report,” adding that he had “long been a supporter of a free and independent press,” but then lecturing the assembled journalists that “with freedom comes responsibility.” From Trump’s press conference:

MIKE PENCE: [T]here's been such a concerted effort by some in the mainstream media to delegitimize this election and to demean our incoming administration. I have long been a supporter of a free and independent press and I always will be. But with freedom comes responsibility. And the irresponsible decision of a few news organizations to run with a false and unsubstantiated report, when most news organizations resisted the temptation to propagate this fake news, can only be attributed to media bias, an attempt to demean the president-elect and our incoming administration, and the American people are sick and tired of it. But today, we'll get back to real news, to real facts, and the real progress our incoming president has already made in reviving the American economy and assembling a team that will make America great again.

Trump Claimed He Stopped Doing Press Conferences Because Of “Inaccurate News.” Trump began his press conference by claiming he had stopped having press conferences “because we were getting quite a bit of inaccurate news.” Trump went on to thank some news organizations present for not publishing information about possible Russian intelligence on him, calling it “fake news.” From the press conference:

DONALD TRUMP: It's very familiar territory, news conferences, because we used to give them on a almost daily basis. I think we probably maybe won the nomination because of news conferences. And it's good to be with you. We stopped giving them because we were getting quite a bit of inaccurate news. But I do have to say that, and I must say, that I want to thank a lot of the news organizations here today because they looked at that nonsense that was released by maybe the intelligence agencies, who knows, but maybe the intelligence agencies, which would be a tremendous blot on their record if they in fact did that, a tremendous blot, because a thing like that should have never been written, it should never been had, and it should certainly never have been released. But I want to thank a lot of the news organizations, for -- some of whom have not treated me very well over the years, a couple in particular, and they came out so strongly against that fake news and the fact that it was written about by primarily one group and one television station. So I just want to compliment many of the people in the room. I have great respect for the news and great respect for freedom of the press and all of that. But I will tell you, there were some news organizations, with all that was just said, that were so professional, so incredibly professional, that I've just gone up a notch as to what I think of you, OK?

Trump Dismissed Reporter’s Question About Releasing Tax Returns, Saying That Only Reporters Care About Them. Trump took a question from NBC’s Hallie Jackson about releasing his tax returns to prove his claim that he has no deals in Russia, and responded by saying he won’t release them and then claiming that “the only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters.” From Trump’s press conference:

HALLIE JACKSON: [D]o you believe the hacking was justified and will you release your tax returns to prove what you're saying about no deals in Russia?

DONALD TRUMP: Well I'm not releasing the tax returns because,as you know, they're under audit.

JACKSON: [INAUDIBLE] [S]ince the '70s has had a required audit from the IRS, the last six have released them. But as president, sir --


TRUMP: Oh, gee, I have never heard that. Oh gee, I’ve never heard that. I’ve never heard that before. The only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters, OK? They’re the only ones --


JACKSON: You don't think the American public is concerned about it?

TRUMP: No, I don't think so. I won.

JACKSON: Do you believe the hacking --


TRUMP: I wouldn’t have become president. No, I don't think they care at all. I don't think they care at all. I think you care. I think you care. First of all, you learn very little from a tax return. What you should do is go down to federal elections and take a look at the numbers. And actually, people have learned a lot about my company, and now they realize, my company is much bigger, much more powerful than they ever thought. We're in many, many countries, and I'm very proud of it.

Trump Attacked BuzzFeed As “A Failing Pile Of Garbage” And Said It Is “Going To Suffer The Consequences.” Trump blasted BuzzFeed as “a failing pile of garbage” adding, “I think they’re going to suffer the consequences.” He also accused CNN of “going out of their way to build up” the report that Russia had compiled compromising information on him and concluded, “I think they ought to apologize.” From Trump’s press conference:

DONALD TRUMP: I think it's a disgrace that information that was false and fake and never happened got released to the public. As far as BuzzFeed, which is a failing pile of garbage, writing it, I think they're going to suffer the consequences. They already are. And as far as CNN going out of their way to build it up --


TRUMP: It’s a disgrace what took place. It’s a disgrace. And I think they ought to apologize to start with, Michael Cohen.

Trump Derided CNN As “Terrible” And “Fake News.” CNN’s Jim Acosta attempted to ask Trump a question during the press conference after Trump attacked the outlet for reporting on possible attempts by Russia to compromise him. Trump repeatedly refused to allow Acosta to ask his question, talking over him and deriding CNN as “terrible” and “fake news.” From Trump’s press conference:

JIM ACOSTA: Since you're attacking us, can you give us a question? Since you’re -- Mr. President-elect --

DONALD TRUMP: Go ahead. Go ahead.

ACOSTA: Mr. President-elect, since you are attacking our news organization --

TRUMP: No, not you. Not you.

ACOSTA: Can you give us a chance?

TRUMP: Your organization’s terrible. Your organization’s terrible.

ACOSTA: You are attacking our news organization, can you give us a chance to ask a question, sir? Sir, can you state --

TRUMP: Let’s go, go ahead. Quiet, quiet.

ACOSTA: Mr. President-elect, can you state categorically --

TRUMP: Go ahead. She’s asking a question, don't be rude.

ACOSTA: Mr. President-elect, can you give us a question since you're attacking us? Can you give us a question?

TRUMP: Don’t be rude. Don't be rude. No, I'm not going to give you a question. I'm not going to give you a question.

ACOSTA: Can you give us a question? Can you state categorically --

TRUMP: You are fake news.

ACOSTA: Sir, can you state categorically that nobody -- no, Mr. President-elect, that’s not appropriate.

Trump: “Some Of The Media Outlets That I Deal With Are Fake News More So Than Anybody.” After being asked by reporter Matt Boyle about whether he has suggestions to reform the media, Trump said some outlets are “fake news” and are “very, very dishonest people.” From Trump’s press conference:

MATT BOYLE: This decision to publish fake news and all the problems that we’ve seen throughout the media over the course of the election, what reforms do you recommend for this industry here?

DONALD TRUMP: Well, I don’t recommend reforms. I recommend people that are -- that have some moral compass. I’ve been hearing more and more about a thing called fake news and they’re talking about people that go and say all sorts of things. But I will tell you, some of the media outlets that I deal with are fake news more so than anybody. I could name them, but I won’t bother, but you have a few sitting right in front of us. So they’re very, very dishonest people, but I think it’s just something we’re going to have to live with. I guess the advantage I have is that I can speak back. When it happens to somebody that doesn’t have this -- doesn’t have that kind of a megaphone, they can’t speak back. It’s a very sad thing. I’ve seen people destroyed. I’ve seen people absolutely destroyed. And I think it’s very unfair. So, all I can ask for is honest reporters.

Spicer Threatened To Throw CNN’s Acosta Out Of Press Conference. After Trump’s press conference ended, CNN’s Jim Acosta said that Spicer warned him that if he demanded another question of Trump, he would be thrown out of the press conference:

JIM ACOSTA: Well, Wolf, at the beginning of that news conference Donald Trump indicated that he was not going to call on me or call on CNN. He sort of pointed at me at one point and then waved his hand as if, “you're not going to get a question.” And then as the news conference went on, as you heard, he was attacking this news organization repeatedly, and I felt it was only fair that if our news organization is going to be attacked, that we get a chance to ask a follow up question about what Donald Trump was talking about.


ACOSTA: I should also tell you that at one point during this news conference -- just in the interest of full disclosure and so everybody knows what’s going on and what was happening in the room -- after I asked, and I guess you might say demanded that we have a question, Sean Spicer, the incoming press secretary, did say to me that if I were to do that again, I was going to be thrown out of this press conference. Of course, Wolf, I had to persist there and try to get that question asked, but in the end, that question was asked.

Trump Secretary Of State Nominee Rex Tillerson Wouldn’t Commit To Having A Traveling Press Corps With Him. During his confirmation hearing, Trump’s secretary of state pick Rex Tillerson said only that he would “look into what would be appropriate to take” when asked by a senator if he would “bring press corps with you as you travel overseas and you will commit to having those regular interactions with the press.”

Spicer Said CNN’s Acosta Was “Inappropriate, Rude, And Disrespectful,” Demanded He Apologize To Trump And Other Reporters.

Trump Complained About “FAKE NEWS Organizations” After Press Conference.

January 12

Trump Claimed CNN “Is In A Total Meltdown With Their FAKE NEWS” And That Its “Credibility Will Soon Be Gone.”

January 13

Trump Cited Russia To Claim Allegations In Dossier Published By BuzzFeed Are “FAKE NEWS.”

January 14

Esquire Reported Trump Transition Team Was Seriously Considering “A Plan To Evict The Press Corps From The White House.” Esquire reported, “According to three senior officials on the transition team, a plan to evict the press corps from the White House is under serious consideration by the incoming Trump Administration. If the plan goes through, one of the officials said, the media will be removed from the cozy confines of the White House press room, where it has worked for several decades. Members of the press will be relocated to the White House Conference Center—near Lafayette Square—or to a space in the Old Executive Office Building, next door to the White House.” One senior Trump official was quoted as saying the media “are the opposition party” and, “I want ‘em out of the building. We are taking back the press room.” Four days later, Trump said he scrapped the plan to move the press out of the White House. [Esquire, 1/14/17; Reuters, 1/18/17]

January 15

Trump Tweeted That Media Outlets Should Apologize For Reporting On Dossier.

Trump Slammed NBC News As “Bad” In Tweet Criticizing Saturday Night Live For Its Portrayals Of Him.

January 16

In Interview With The Times And Bild, Trump Denied Dossier Allegations As “Fake News.” In a joint interview with British newspaper The Times and German newspaper Bild, Trump repeatedly referred to the dossier allegations against him as “fake news” when questioned about his relationship with the American intelligence community. [The Times, 1/16/17]

Trump Chided Times Interviewer For Not Writing That Trump Would Win The Election. After praising former UKIP leader Nigel Farage for “saying Trump’s gonna win” throughout America, Trump concluded the joint interview by telling Times interviewer Michael Gove, “You should’ve written that we were gonna win.” [The Times, 1/16/17]

Trump Responded To Twitter User Thanking Him For “Maintain[ing] Transparency” Through Tweets By Writing, “Very Dishonest Media!”

Trump Pre-emptively Attacked CNN Report On His Daughter Ivanka.

January 17

Trump Claimed Polls By Media Outlets Showing Him As The Most Unpopular President In Decades Are “Rigged.” Following reports on polling showing that Trump will take the oath of office “as the least-popular incoming president in at least four decades,” Trump decried approval rating polls as “rigged.” [The Washington Post, 1/17/17]

January 18

In Fox & Friends Interview, Trump Said He Tweets To Counteract “Very Dishonest Press,” Dismissed Dossier As “Fake News,” And Complained Reporters “Went Crazy” Over Plan To Move Them Out Of The White House. In an interview with Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Trump said that he would continue to tweet in order to counteract the “very dishonest media.” Trump also dismissed the dossier published by BuzzFeed, once again, as “fake news.” Trump went on to complain that reporters “went crazy” over reports that his administration planned to move them out of the West Wing:

AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): What about Twitter? You going to continue to tweet?

DONALD TRUMP: Yeah. Look, I don't like tweeting. I have other things I could be doing. But I get very dishonest media, very dishonest press. And it's my only way that I can counteract.

EARHARDT: CIA [Director] John Brennan, he responded to your Twitter. You said -- you questioned whether or not he might be the leaker. He’s saying, no he’s not the leaker. What's your response?

TRUMP: Look, I accept it, but it came out of some place, and it's fake news. It's all fake news. I can say something about George Washington. I can say something about Abraham Lincoln. I can say something about you. I can-- just fake news. And they shouldn't have been a part of it, they should not have been a part of it, because it's made up, never existed, never happened. And the reason I say that so strongly because nothing’s ever going to show up. There’s never going to be a tape that shows up. There’s never going to be anything that shows up. Now, I would be very embarrassed if a tape actually showed up, saying something like that. It would be double embarrassed because I’m saying there is no tape. There was no event. I was never even in that room for that period of time. They made stuff up, and it started with the Republican Party when they tried to beat me in the nomination, and then it went on, the Democrats took over that work, supposedly. And by the intelligence giving it credence, a little bit of credence by just even talking about it, it was very inappropriate. So I don't know who the leaker was, I have no idea. But it's fake news.

EARHARDT: Press briefing room, are you going to move it?

TRUMP: So we want to move it because, for whatever reason, you'll have to explain this to me and everybody, but we had a lot people showing up for press conferences, et cetera, including briefings. And the room is too small. So we said we're going to move it to a larger room in a nearby area, but not the same area. And the press went crazy, so I said let's not move it. But some people in the press will not be able to get in because there’s just too many -- we'll make sure you get a seat -- but there's too many people for this small room.

EARHARDT: Especially nowadays with bloggers and with radio.

TRUMP: We have so many people that want to go, so we'll have to just pick the people that go into the room. I'm sure other people will be thrilled about that. But we offered a much larger room, because we need a much larger room, and we offered to do that, but they went crazy. And they’ll be begging for a much larger room very soon. You watch.

Trump Attacked “Totally Biased” NBC News For Reporting That Some Announced Job Creation Had Nothing To Do With Him. A report from NBC News explained that some recent announcements by companies about creating new U.S. jobs have little or nothing to do with Trump because they were planned for years or fit their normal annual increases in hiring. Trump responded by attacking NBC News as “totally biased” and the report as “FAKE NEWS.” [, 1/17/17]

Trump Also Attacked NBC’s Today For Report Casting Doubt On His Credit For New Jobs. After a “Today’s Fact Check” segment on NBC’s Today cast doubt on whether Trump deserves credit for new American jobs, Trump tweeted that NBC is “biased” and that Today “is doing so badly” and has “little credibility.” CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter reported that Trump was wrong about his claim regarding Today’s ratings. [, 1/18/17]

Trump’s Government-Owned D.C. Hotel Reportedly Banned Reporters For Inauguration Week. Politico reported that the Trump International Hotel in D.C.’s Old Post Office, under lease from the federal government, banned reporters during the week of Trump’s inauguration. A hotel official told Politico in an email that “‘media is not allowed in this week in respect of the privacy of our guests.’” The next day, incoming press secretary Sean Spicer told Politico that reporters are welcome to go to the hotel. [Politico, 1/18/17; Twitter, 1/19/17]

January 19

Trump Reportedly Abandoned Press Pool For Trip To Inauguration In D.C. The press pool reporter for the president-elect reported that Trump left Trump Tower without any accompanying press. His motorcade was heading to the airport to take him to Washington, D.C. for his January 20 inauguration. [The Associated Press, 1/19/17]

To view the attacks Trump made on the press in November and December 2016, click here and here.