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Many other reporters in the room in turn sided with Alexander, making a large portion of the question-and-answer session more about their frayed relationship with the president than the pandemic.
The spat started when Alexander asked Trump if his “impulse to put a positive spin on things” could be giving Americans a “false sense of hope” amid the pandemic. The president explained he had a “good feeling” about possible solutions the FDA is working on.
“Let’s see what happens, we have nothing to lose,” Trump said.
Alexander interrupted the next reporter who was called on, shouting, “What do you say to Americans who are scared?”
“I say that you’re a terrible reporter. That’s what I say,” Trump fired back.
“I think that’s a very nasty question and I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people,” Trump said. “The American people are looking for answers and they’re looking for hope. And you’re doing sensationalism and, the same with NBC and Con-cast. I don’t call it Comcast, I call it Con-cast”
Trump then pointed at Alexander and said, “That’s really bad reporting,” and urged him to “get back to reporting instead of sensationalism.”
“You ought to be ashamed of yourself,” Trump said before moving on to the next reporter.
NBC News did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Some reporters in the room appeared to side with Alexander and asked follow-ups to the NBC News correspondent’s question that sparked Trump’s anger.
“This is a very valid concern that people have,” a reporter told Trump about Alexander’s second question. Trump then stepped aside and allowed Dr. Anthony Fauci to answer questions about Americans who are concerned about the drug being worked on to combat coronavirus.
“Do you really think going off on Peter, going off on the network is appropriate?” another reporter asked.
“I do, because ... I think Peter is not a good journalist when it comes to fairness,” Trump said.
The president added it’s a time to “come together” but “dishonest journalists” make it harder.
“When people are dishonest, they truly do hurt our country,” Trump said, adding that the American people have done an "incredible" job dealing with disruptions caused by the outbreak.
“We’re going to come out stronger, better, bigger in every way,” he said. “Our country has been incredible.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo even got pulled into the fray when he took a question later during the briefing and was asked about disinformation related to the coronavirus pandemic.
“This idea of transparency and accurate information is very important, it’s how we protect American people from something like this ever happening again,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo was then asked if he feels compromised when the president attacks news organizations.
“Does it undermine you at all when the president stands up here and attacks news outlets, calling us untrustworthy?” a reporter asked.
Pompeo dismissed the comment and moved onto the next question as Trump shook his head in the background.
“I’ve had my frustration with reporters, too. All I ask when I talk to the media is that you listen to what we say and report it accurately,” Pompeo said. “It’s frustrating… we have a responsibility to tell the American people the truth and those who are reporting on what we are doing and saying have an equal responsibility to report accurately.”
Alexander addressed the confrontation on MSNBC following the briefing, saying he asked a "softball" question.
“Peter Alexander is an outstanding reporter. His line of questioning at today’s White House briefing was fair, straightforward, and necessary,” NBC News chairman Andy Lack told CNN.
Viewers posted their thoughts about the confrontaiton on social media.