- President Donald Trump attacked NBC News and CNN reporters Friday in the UK during a rare press conference with American and British reporters.
- After refusing to take a question from CNN, which he called “fake news,” Trump called on the Fox News reporter John Roberts, calling Fox “a real network.”
- After Roberts asked his question without objecting to the president’s attacks on his colleagues, other prominent political reporters criticized Roberts online for failing to defend them.
President Donald Trump attacked NBC News and CNN reporters on Friday in the UK during a rare press conference with American and British reporters.
After NBC News’ Kristen Welker asked Trump whether he was “giving Russian President Vladimir Putin the upper hand” by publicly criticizing UK Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump responded by calling Welker “dishonest” and accused NBC of being “possibly worse than CNN.” Trump criticized May’s Brexit plan in an interview with the British newspaper The Sun published Thursday, but on Friday he called that report “fake news.”
A few minutes later, the CNN reporter Jim Acosta asked the president for a question “since you attacked CNN.” Trump responded to that by asserting that “CNN is fake news” and refused to call on Acosta.
“I don’t take questions from CNN,” he said, as he scanned the assembled reporters to select one for the next question. “John Roberts of Fox. Let’s go to a real network.”
Roberts, Fox News’ chief White House correspondent, thanked the president for calling on him and proceeded to ask a question about US-Russia relations.
Fox News later tweeted out a clip of the president lambasting CNN.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) July 13, 2018
Several prominent political reporters quickly expressed their displeasure with Roberts’ handling of the president’s criticism.
“I really wish @johnrobertsFox had taken a moment there to defend his colleagues,” tweeted Ken Dilanian, a national security reporter at NBC News.
Some journalists argued that they went out of their way to defend Fox News when the right-leaning network faced pushback from President Barack Obama’s White House. Reporters said they hoped Fox News would return the favor under a Republican administration.
“There was a period when the Obama press shop iced Fox in briefings,” tweeted Mike Memoli, a political reporter at NBC News. “The rest of the press corps backed them up in the interest of free press and 1st Amendment. It’d be great to see them return the professional courtesy.”
Old enough to remember when other networks came to the defense of Fox News WH correspondents during the Obama years. Such did not happen here.
Lesson for the kids out there: no one should ever try to do the right thing with the expectation it will ever be reciprocated. https://t.co/Ym7E94k2Wz
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) July 13, 2018
(Tapper vigorously defended Fox back in 2009 when the Obama administration said the network was “not a news organization.”)
The New York Times reporter Michael Barbaro called Roberts’ failure to push back “journalistic malpractice.”
“The appropriate response from Fox reporter at that moment? ‘Mr President, I must object. CNN is a real network,'” he tweeted. “Fine to then ask Q but to ignore and abet that false claim is journalistic malpractice.”
Roberts responded to the criticism in a statement to Business Insider on Friday.
“In today’s press conference, I paused while my colleague from CNN went back and forth with President Trump over a question. When it became clear that the president wasn’t going to entertain a question from him, I proceeded with my question, as did my fellow colleagues in the press corps,” Roberts said. “I know Kristen Welker of NBC. She is honest as the day is long. For the President to call her dishonest is unfair.”
He argued that the president’s attacks on CNN, his former employer, were wrong.
“I also used to work at CNN. There are some fine journalists who work there and risk their lives to report on stories around the world. To issue a blanket condemnation of the network as ‘fake news’ is also unfair,” he said.
But a CNN spokesperson slammed Roberts’ statement on Friday afternoon, arguing that his response to the criticism did not go far enough.
“Nice try, @johnrobertsFox. Your omission is glaring and your compliment backhanded,” tweeted Matt Dornic, CNN’s vice president of communications. “Next time try and show some class in the moment. And in your statement.”
A few Fox reporters, most notably veteran anchor Shep Smith, have at times defended other networks from attacks by the president.
Throughout the nearly hourlong joint press conference with May at the prime minister’s official retreat in Chequers, Trump was asked to explain comments he made in his explosive interview with The Sun, in which he also said that May had ignored his advice on Brexit and that Boris Johnson, who resigned as foreign secretary this week over May’s strategy for Britain’s exit from the European Union, would do a better job.
Trump on Friday denied criticizing May’s plans, saying that “whatever you do is OK with me.” And he doubled down on his comments about Johnson but added that “this incredible woman right here is doing a fantastic job.”
Adam Bienkov and Adam Payne contributed to this report.