Not even 24 hours had passed after potential explosive devices were sent to CNN, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders was already on Fox & Friends, suggesting that the media is somehow to blame for the attacks.
At least 10 devices resembling pipe bombs have been mailed to prominent Democrats and media organizations, with the latest removed early Thursday. The packages targeted Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Rep. Maxine Waters, actor Robert DeNiro, and others.
After condemning "violence in all forms" and calling the bombs a "despicable act" — the bare minimum a member of the administration can do — the White House press secretary wasted no time and turned on the media.
"Certainly the media has a role to play in this process," Sanders said. "When 90% of the coverage about this president is negative, despite the historic successes, when ideas are perpetuated and continued of negativity that is not helpful for the American discourse. And certainly the president is calling on everyone to come together and if you have a problem with one another, let's voice that but let's do so peacefully and let's do that at the ballot box."
In a tweet, Sanders accused CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker of "attack[ing] and divid[ing]" after he called out the White House for its "total and complete lack of understanding" of the seriousness of their persistent attacks on the media, which are continuing to turn rhetoric into action.
It's unsurprising that Sanders, who has a history of lying and defending Trump's indefensible comments, has taken the low road and chosen this interview to throw accusations at the media that are not grounded in any reality. She's following her boss' orders. On Wednesday, President Trump took a few somber moments to condemn the violence and promise a thorough investigation. But then, he was at it again.
"A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News," he tweeted on Thursday morning. "It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!"
At a campaign rally in Wisconsin on Wednesday, he said of the bombs, "Such conduct must be fiercely opposed and prosecuted. There is one way to settle our disagreements, it’s called peacefully, at the ballot box." This is exactly the same talking point Sanders used, suggesting that Republicans are already twisting the tragedy to drum up votes in the midterms.
He added, however: "As part of a larger national effort to bridge our divides and bring people together, the media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and oftentimes false attacks and stories. Have to do it. They’ve got to stop. Bring people together."
This type of policing of media coverage is dangerous to a free press, as the media's responsibility to the public is to tell the truth rather than bring people together kumbaya-style. And this administration is doing everything but bringing people together — from the constant attacks at rallies, which have resulted in impressionable supporters sending threats to journalists, to Trump praising a GOP politician for body-slamming reporter Ben Jacobs from The Guardian, to referring to the press as "fake news" and "the enemy of the people."
A 2017 Harvard study found that 80% of news coverage of the Trump administration during his first 100 days was negative, significantly more than other presidents. (Fox was by far the most positive outlet.) But negative news is not fake news — the study also found that the coverage was largely accurate: "The early days of his presidency have been marked by far more missteps and miss-hits, often self-inflicted, than any presidency in memory, perhaps ever." On the other hand, the Washington Post keeps a running log of lies Trump has made since assuming office, which you can filter by date, topic, and source. In 601 days, he reportedly made 5,001 false or misleading claims.
By no means letting the media off the hook, the study suggested that journalists step away from the "Washington power game" and focus on policies that affect regular Americans, a fair criticism that's far from Trump's cries of fakeness.
Trump and Sanders got one thing right: the part about settling things peacefully and at the ballot box. Check out our guide to voting in the fast-approaching midterm elections.