UPDATE: Roberts issued a statement regarding the incident, calling it “unfair” for the president to issue a “blanket condemnation of [CNN] as ‘fake news’.”
During a July 13 press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May, President Donald Trump refused to answer a question from CNN’s Jim Acosta, dismissing the network as “fake news.” He instead called on Fox’s John Roberts, claiming he prefered to answer a question from a “real network.” Instead of defending Acosta or pushing back on the president’s attack on freedom of the press, Roberts thanked Trump and continued with a question.
Earlier in the press conference, Trump had criticized NBC for “dishonest reporting” and claimed the network was “possibly worse than CNN.” Trump’s attacks on news outlets come as no surprise given his yearslong war on the press. The president’s particular vitriol for CNN is also nothing new.
Roberts’ willingness to accept Trump’s dismissal of a rival network as “fake news” and his failure to stand up for a fellow reporter demonstrate Fox’s apathy toward the president’s aggressive, anti-free press rhetoric and the network’s desire to remain his favorite news outlet.
JIM ACOSTA: Mr. President, since you attacked CNN, can I ask you a question?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: John Roberts -- go ahead, John.
ACOSTA: Can I ask you a question, please?
TRUMP: No, no. John Roberts, go ahead. CNN is fake news. I don’t take questions from --
ACOSTA: Well, sir --
TRUMP: I don’t take questions from CNN. CNN is fake news. I don’t take questions from CNN. John Roberts of Fox -- let’s go to a real network. John, let’s go.
ACOSTA: Well, we’re a real network too, sir.
JOHN ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr. President.