Donald Trump on Tuesday went on a sustained frontal assault against the media during a contentious news conference that highlighted his un-presidential temperament.
The billionaire had called the press conference to announce an accounting of his at least $5.6 million in fundraising for veterans groups, but spent most of the 40 minutes criticizing and insulting reporters — collectively and at times individually — as “dishonest,” “not good people,” sleazy, and among the worst human beings he has ever met.
And he vowed the White House briefing room would be just as combative as the Trump Tower lobby, where he addressed reporters Tuesday, should he ascend to the Oval Office.
Trump said when asked if this is how he would behave with the press as president.
Yeah, it is going to be like this. You think I’m gonna change? I’m not gonna change.
At one point, Trump fumed:
I’m the only one in the world who can raise almost $6 million for the veterans, have uniform applause by the veterans groups and end up being criticized by press…I think the political press is among the most dishonest people that I have ever met, I have to tell you. I see the stories and I see the way they’re couched. I find the press to be extremely dishonest. I find the political press to be unbelievably dishonest.
Tuesday’s news conference did not mark a departure from Trump’s relationship with the press, which has been strained throughout the brash mogul’s campaign — but Tuesday was a surprise escalation, especially at a time when many supporters want him to start acting more presidential.
Over the last year, Trump has repeatedly called out individual reporters on Twitter and in interviews for everything from what he viewed as insufficient crowd shots to biased reporting. And attacking the press is a regular part of the Republican’s stump speech, during which he typically rips reporters as “scum,” “slime,” “dishonest” and “disgusting” — often prompting jeers from the crowd.
The news conference came four months after Trump falsely claimed to have raised $6 million for veterans groups, but then dodged reporters’ unrelenting questions about which groups had received the donations.
Trump kicked off his litany of attacks by accusing reporters of turning what should have been a positive story about his charity into a negative one.
Reporters had repeatedly asked Trump to provide an accounting of the donations, requests that were frequently rebuffed or side-stepped by Trump and his campaign staff.
Trump said he didn’t “want the credit” for his fundraising, “but I shouldn’t be lambasted” — that despite Trump repeatedly touting the donations himself on the campaign trail since the January fundraiser, which was televised in what some at the time dubbed a PR stunt.
But the subject of the news conference quickly turned away from the veterans donations as Trump accused reporters of writing stories they “know” are false, and of spinning the truth.
He also lashed out at individual reporters, calling ABC’s Tom Llamas a “sleaze,” referring sarcastically to CNN’s Jim Acosta’s live reports as a “beauty,” telling Katy Tur she’s a “third-rate journalist,” and refusing at one point to call on CBS’s Major Garrett.
Trump repeatedly blasted the media for the way it has covered his fundraising for vets.
“All of the money has been paid out,” Trump said. “The press should be ashamed of themselves, and on behalf of the veterans, the press should be ashamed of themselves.”
“There are so many people who are so thankful for what we did,” Trump said, adding that the final figure could top $6 million once all the donations are in.
Trump listed the vets groups — there were more than 40 — that he said had received money and the amounts that had been given to each. He said there were no administrative costs deducted from the donations.
Trump revised that figure recently to $5.5 million following months of questions from reporters struggling to track the funds and dodging on the exact amount from the Trump campaign.
Trump himself disbursed his $1 million pledge last week to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, a charity that helps support the families of fallen Marines and law enforcement officers to which Trump’s foundation has previously donated. Trump only transferred the money after reporters uncovered that for 4 months of claiming he donated money, he never did.
Amid reporters’ questions, Trump and his campaign have repeatedly offered conflicting accounts of how much money was raised and declined multiple requests to provide a full accounting. The campaign has insisted it was working on disbursing the funds, but said it was waiting on some donors to make good on their pledges and also needed to properly vet the charities in the running to receive the funds.
Three veterans groups earlier Tuesday confirmed donations from the Trump Foundation. The Bob Woodruff Foundation and the Boston Wounded Vets Run each confirmed donations of $75,000 apiece. The Racing For Heroes Foundation also received what the group’s president described as a “large” donation.
There are a few things at play here. First, Donald Trump’s complaints to the press. Second, the facts he brought up at his conference. Three, the unusually slow distribution of donations to the veterans charities. Fourth, Trump’s own $1 million dollar donation. And finally, and most important, Trump’s completely un-presidential temperament at his press conference.
Trump’s Complaints about the Press
Donald Trump has a history of harassing the press, ejecting journalists from press conferences, and promising to gut the 1st amendment to the United States Constitution to allow the government to sue reporters in an effort to silence the press.
But Donald’s complaint that the press was not nice to him is frankly, too stupid of a statement to have to answer, but we will.
While Trump boasts how much money he raised and how much money he gave to charity he’s essentially demanding that everyone, including the press, should just brown-nose him up-and-down for his awesomeness. However it is not a journalist’s job sit there and accept the information that they are told at face value, but to critically review evidence of a story. (Granted some do this better than others.) And unfortunately for Donald Trump, there has been a lot of justified controversy surrounding his fundraiser.
The televised fundraiser only came about so he could dodge debate questions from Megyn Kelly about his past sexist comments towards women. Then Trump attempted to extort Fox News for an illegal “quid pro quo” donation of $5 million dollars to appear at their Iowa debate.
As we point out below, it was the Trump campaign who originally refused to disclose his fundraiser accounting information and instead brushed off the press and told them to look for the it themselves, which of course they would. Then for the next 4 months Trump lied again and again when he spoke about his charitable $1 million donation in the past tense.
So while Donald Trump tries complain about the nastiness of the reporters, if he and his campaign were open and transparent instead of recalcitrant and stonewalling then there would have been no needed to follow up on this story and uncover some pretty major lies.
Fact Checking Trump’s Statements
During the press conference Donald Trump made many claims that just did not add up.
- Trump opened the press conference by saying he’s received the most votes ever for a Republican in a primary. As we pointed out before this is not true.
- Trump mentioned that wanted to keep the donation dealings private yet he boasted for 4 months about his fundraiser every chance he could. He can’t claim to have it both ways.
- At the 15 minute mark of the speech Donald Trump clearly drops the f-bomb. “Fuck look, when this started, I think you were there, I said if we could raise $1 million dollars that would be good.”
- Trump claimed multiple times that he didn’t want any public credit for his fundraiser, yet he nationally televised the event, claimed it was for the ratings, continuously brought it up during campaign rallies, and kept sending tweets about it
- Trump commented that most of the money was sent out early on. But as we detail below, after 4 months only half of the funds were distributed and the other half was sent out on 5/24, the day of the Washington Post story.
- Trump challenged reporters to go find out how much money Hillary Clinton has raised. The Clinton family donated $105,000 to veteran charities between 2006-2012, helped to raise $50 million dollars for a state-of-the-art veterans rehab center, and has the Clinton Foundation that raises over $200 million for global charities every year. However this is completely irrelevant. The amount of money someone else donates has no effect on the ability for journalists to critically review this evidence.
While his fundraiser that raised $5.5 million dollars for veterans groups is an amazing gesture, it is hardly altruistic. In fact, while $5.5 million dollars is great and will do good, people donate more than $2.5 billion annually to the over 40,000 American charities with military related missions. While it indeed will help veterans and does deserve some thanks, the amount is really a drop in the bucket.
Unusually Slow Distribution of Donations
Trump spent a significant time explaining that the reason why it took so long to distribute the donations is because vetting the different charity groups took time. Filling out forms, sending people out to the charity office, background checks, etc.
However the charities listed as recipients were already rated by trusted charity watchdog groups such as Charity Navigator, and the Trump Foundation already gave to a majority these groups before including the charity that received his own personal $1 million dollar donation four months after the fundraiser. So there was no logical reason to vet them again.
Trump’s Own $1 Million Dollar Donation
On 1/28, the Trump campaign released a press release indicating that Mr. Trump made a $1 million dollar contribution at a special event in Des Moines to benefit vets.
The conservative newspaper The Weekly Standard broke the story on 2/18 that the Trump campaign was refusing to acknowledge how much money was disbursed saying, “You can do your homework and ask the veterans’ organizations.” They did and found out that only about $500,000 was distributed to veterans charities at that time.
On 2/26, the conservative pundit Stuart Varney on Fox Business News corroborated The Weekly Standard’s story with their own independent investigation by checking with the charities a full month after the fundraiser and found that only $650,000 of the supposed $6 million raised had been distributed to charities.
Two months after the fundraiser on 4/7, the not-very-liberal Wall Street Journal again talked to the veteran charities and found only $2.4 million was distributed.
Then on 5/20, The Washington Post followed up with the 22 veteran charities and only $3.1 million could be accounted for. Furthering the scandal, the Trump campaign confirmed that only $4.5 million and not $6 million was raised while claiming $1 million dollars donated by Trump was already given to the charities but refused to share evidence saying, “Mr. Trump’s money is fully spent.”
As recent as 5/23, a day before this story broke, Donald Trump tweeted and was still claiming the money was donated.
And finally 5/24 The Washington Post concluded its investigation which uncovered the story that Trump never gave any money to a veterans charity. Once that fact came to light then, and only then, did Trump cut a check to a single charity from his own personal account and sent out the remaining millions of donations.
Trump’s Completely Un-presidential Temperament
At about the 14 minute mark in the media video is when the sparks really start to fly. It really comes across as child throwing a tantrum.
He is highly combative, curses, singles out individuals for riddicule, and is visibly flustered.
After the press conference, Jesse Ferguson, a Clinton spokesman, tweeted: “EVERYONE STOP. Close your eyes for a moment. Think about the press conference you just watched. Now try to imagine him as President. Thanks.”
EVERYONE STOP. Close your eyes for a moment. Think about the press conference you just watched. Now try to imagine him as President. Thanks.
— Jesse Ferguson (@JesseFFerguson) May 31, 2016
We’re not sure we have anything else to add after that.