CNN reporter John Harwood suggested on Tuesday that President Trump showed authoritarian tendencies for questioning the legitimacy of a reporter who peppered him with questions about his cooperation with China.
During Monday's coronavirus task force briefing, an unidentified reporter for Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV addressed Trump: "Mr. President, only last week there were multiple flights coming from China, full of medical supplies. Companies like Huawei and Ali Baba have been donating to the United States like $1.5 million, N95 masks, and also a lot of medical gloves, and much more medical supplies."
"Sounds like a statement more than a question," Trump replied. The reporter went on to cite a Chinese ambassador's op-ed calling for cooperation with the United States. "Are you personally, working directly with China?" she asked.
After Trump cited his trade agreement with China, the reporter again asked whether he was cooperating with China. "Who are you working for? China?" Trump responded.
On CNN's "New Day," Harwood cited the exchange as part of a pattern of "lashing out, again, at the legitimacy of criticism itself."
"He went after a reporter and said do you work for China? ... This is the kind of thing he did, we remember, in 2016 when he said, well, it's a Mexican judge, I'm trying to build a wall, they can't be fair. That is not the case. There is expertise within the government.
"He has disregarded that expertise. And now he's trying -- I think he feels a sense of injustice that the good conditions that he was running for re-election on have been taken away and he's reacting, in a way, frankly, that authoritarian leaders behave. You can't question me, I’m the leader of the country, what I say is true."
In 2005, The Washington Post reported that Phoenix TV CEO Liu Changle served in the People's Liberation Army and worked as a "military journalist" for Central People's Radio, a state-owned outlet that was later renamed "China National Radio." The Hoover Institution at Stanford University previously labeled Phoenix TV as "quasi-official" state media, adding it was "completely controlled by Chinese government."
Curtis Houck, managing editor for the conservative website Newsbusters, wasn't surprised by Harwood's statement.
"There is no bottom for liberal 'journalists' like Harwood," Houck told Fox News on Tuesday.
"It was ludicrous that CNN hired him and he’s continued to beclown himself by standing up for the authoritarian, communist regime due to his deep-seated disdain for Trump. It’s harder to find a worse example of Trump Derangement Syndrome then choosing Beijing over Washington simply because of who’s the U.S. President."
In a 2005 interview with the Post, Phoenix TV's Liu Changle openly discussed the "tightrope" he was walking in dealing with the Beijing government.
"If we do everything the government wants, people will treat us with contempt," he reportedly said. "If we follow the people completely, the government will wipe us out ... It can be very uncomfortable."
Other organizations have shed light on the outlet's ties to China's government. A research analyst from Freedom House, a pro-democracy group, previously testified that the outlet's coverage is "typically favorable" to the Chinese Communist Party and airs televised confessions of the party's critics.
"Such coverage is perhaps not coincidental, considering that CCTV reportedly holds a 10 percent stake in Phoenix," a research analyst from the group said.