In tweeting his disdain for CNN over the weekend, President Donald Trump took the unusual step of identifying the network's international division as a poor representative of America to the world. Incidentally, the tweet came within hours of Russian president Vladimir Putin signing a law that requires certain U.S. media to register as foreign agents.
For now, CNN appears untouched by the new regulations in Russia. But with an ongoing investigation into possible ties between allies of Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin, the timing and content of Mr. Trump’s tweet were quickly dissected for potential hints at a connection. Was this a sign that the two had united against a common foe?
At present, the only American media affected by the law are Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which are managed by the U.S. government.
Russian officials have made clear that the regulations were tit-for-tat retaliation for a move by United States officials to register RT, the state-run Russian news group formerly known as Russia Today, as a foreign agent. American intelligence sources have accused RT of serving as a propaganda outlet during last year’s presidential race, a charge that RT executives have vehemently denied.
Trump's weekend tweet about CNN was denounced by members of both political parties.
“Trump’s eagerness to win the favor of autocrats remains one of the most concerning aspects of his presidency,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and communications director for Senator Marco Rubio’s presidential bid. “If the leader of the free world does not champion the free press, then who will?”
CNN International correspondent Christiane Amanpour was taken aback by Trump's attack, saying his anti-press rhetoric gives “an automatic green light” to authoritarians across the globe:
“We’re used to danger,” Ms. Amanpour said by telephone from London. “But we don’t need to be stabbed in the back by our free and democratic leadership.”
The president followed up his weekend tweet with one mocking "fake news" networks Monday morning, saying,
We should have a contest as to which of the Networks, plus CNN and not including Fox, is the most dishonest, corrupt and/or distorted in its political coverage of your favorite President (me). They are all bad. Winner to receive the FAKE NEWS TROPHY!