US ELECTIONS

Donald Trump goes to war with the press after making veteran donation

Republican candidate puts spotlight on media as he rails against the power of the establishment

Donald Trump after giving a press conference in New York on Tuesday.
Donald Trump after giving a press conference in New York on Tuesday.JEWEL SAMAD / AFP

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It was an auspicious occasion to show a friendly face. Donald Trump called a press conference in New York to announce that he was donating $5.6 million to American war veterans. The real estate mogul and soon-to-be Republican nominee for the White House, however, soon began to attack the media, turning a goodwill event into boxing match. Trump’s hostility toward the press has ironically led to the kind of free and constant publicity than his likely Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, could never dream of.

Political analysts said Trump would probably adopt a new, more presidential attitude now that he has defeated his rivals in the Republican primary and with his mind already set on November’s elections. But the New York businessman made it clear that he will not leave behind either his matches or his gasoline.

The press should be ashamed of itself. I've never seen such bad publicity for doing a good job Donald Trump

“You are a sleaze,” he told an ABC reporter who asked him why he misled the public about how much money he had raised for veterans. “The press should be ashamed of itself. I've never seen such bad publicity for doing a good job,” Trump said.

Trump announced the veterans’ fund in January and the media has been questioning him about the destination of the money for months. In response, he has called political reporters “the most dishonest people,” and said that he has “a low opinion” of the press as a whole. Trump already admitted this much in his book Crippled America, where he also said he uses the press for his own gain by making controversial statements he knows will make headlines. 

And he is right. Last summer, his sexist remarks against Fox News presenter Megyn Kelly made headlines, before sitting down for an interview with her earlier this month, a reconciliation of sorts. In August, he attacked Univision journalist Jorge Ramos when he asked him about immigration reform. Trump chastised and then expelled Ramos from a press conference, shouting: “Sit down, you weren’t called,” and then: “Go back to Univision!”

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The Trump campaign has systematically refused to let the international media cover his press conferences, saying that it must give priority to the national press regardless of the capacity of the room, something no other candidate has done.

Yet Trump also sees the American media as an enemy, whom he accuses of libel. He said Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon and The Washington Post, is using the newspaper as a political “toy.” “Amazon is getting away with murder tax-wise. He’s using The Washington Post for power so that the politicians in Washington don’t tax Amazon like they should be taxed,” Trump said. His speeches have raised fears regarding the future of the First Amendment – which safeguards freedom of expression – if he becomes president. Trump has also expressed his desire to “open up libel laws.”

Tuesday’s press conference took place at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, which has become even more popular among tourists and the curious since the magnate announced his bid for the Republican presidential nomination last year. Some veterans were there to protest against Trump, who they say is using them. Several of his supporters came to cheer him on. And he had one message for one and all: “I am not going to change.”

English version by Dyane Jean François.

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