President Trump tangled on Twitter Wednesday morning with a New York Times reporter who knocked his performance in health care negotiations, marking the latest escalation in the conflict between the administration and the media.
The exchange came a day after Trump’s tweet-storm attacking CNN for a story the network was ultimately forced to retract – and that resulted in the resignation of three journalists – and less than 24 hours after White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders castigated the press during a heated briefing. The New York Times on Tuesday was also sued by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who accused the paper of defaming her in a June editorial.
“The failing @nytimes writes false story after false story about me. They don’t even call to verify the facts of a story. A Fake News Joke!” Trump wrote Wednesday. “Some of the Fake News Media likes to say that I am not totally engaged in healthcare. Wrong, I know the subject well & want victory for U.S.”
Trump appeared to be referencing The Times' front page story “On Senate Health Bill, Trump Falters in the Closer’s Role,” authored by Jonathan Martin and Glenn Thrush, a popular foil of Trump and Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Thrush, the fedora-wearing writer who has grown so noticeable at press briefings that he’s even been lampooned on "Saturday Night Live," responded to Trump on Twitter.
“Call your office, sir. @nytimes spoke to many, many, many members of your staff yesterday - & ran everything by your team,” Thrush wrote.
The Times’ article portrayed the president as a particular irritant to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and also ignorant of the Senate health care plan’s details -- while simultaneously trying to push the complicated bill across the finish line.
McConnell, the article said, “kept the president at a polite arm’s length” and was “already rankled” by some of Trump’s previous tweets and tactics, once even calling White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to complain that attacks seemingly endorsed by Trump on reluctant Republicans were “beyond stupid."
Trump, meanwhile, “was largely on the sidelines” of the health debate. The piece cited an anonymous senator at Tuesday’s White House meeting as having the “sense that the president did not have a grasp of some basic elements of the Senate plan” and “confused” by a moderate Republican’s complaints. It also mentioned that McConnell “ignored the question and smiled blandly” when asked by a reporter if Trump “had command of the details of the negotiations.”