President Trump’s post-midterms press conference on Wednesday afternoon went from sleepy to unhinged in a matter of seconds, with the president shouting down several reporters.
Trump spent the duration of his prepared remarks boasting about the midterm-election results, which saw the Republican Party retain its Senate control while losing the House to the Democrats, and calling out by name the GOP candidates who lost after refusing to “embrace” him during their campaigns.
But when the floor opened for questions, Trump blew up at CNN and NBC reporters who asked questions about his scaremongering over the migrant caravan, his views on the ongoing Mueller investigation, and allegations of voter suppression in several states.
When CNN reporter Jim Acosta, a frequent sparring partner of the president’s, took the mic, he asked Trump why he “demonized” the migrant caravan as an “invasion.” The president muttered “Here we go,” before eventually blowing up at the reporter.
“CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them,” he raged, pointing at Acosta. “You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN. You’re a very rude person.”
A presidential staffer came over to rip the microphone from Acosta’s hand while the reporter attempted to challenge Trump on the possible investigations that could come from a Democratic-controlled House—causing Trump to get even more personal.
“The way you treat other people are horrible. You shouldn’t treat people that way,” the president said before yelling “That’s enough” and demanding Acosta “put down the mic” and just “let me run the country.”
The commotion didn’t stop there.
When the president then turned to NBC’s Peter Alexander for a question, the White House correspondent spoke up in defense of Acosta.
“In Jim’s defense, I traveled with him and watched him. He is a hard-working, diligent reporter,” Alexander said, prompting the president to also insult the NBC reporter: “I’m not a big fan of yours either. You are not the best.”
Acosta stood up again to object, so Trump pointed directly at him and added: “When you report fake news, you are an enemy of the people.”
Moments later, Trump told CNN contributor and Urban Radio Networks correspondent April Ryan to “sit down,” scolding her for “rudely interrupting” another reporter to ask about voter suppression.
“Very hostile. Such a hostile media. It’s so sad,” he said while interrupting the same reporter he accused Ryan of speaking over. “You ask me—no, you rudely interrupted him. You rudely interrupted him. Go ahead.”
Trump continued to spar with reporters throughout the press conference, telling several others to sit down or stop asking questions. At another point, he accused CNN of “voter suppression,” citing the network’s election polling ahead of Tuesday’s elections.
In a later incident, Trump dismissed a black reporter who asked if his embrace of the “nationalist” label could be viewed as an embracing of white nationalism.
“That’s such a racist question,” the president fumed at PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor. “I love our country, we have nationalists and globalists. I’m very offended by that question.”
The heated event came hours after Trump delivered a series of early morning tweets boasting of his party’s midterm success, despite more than a dozen races across multiple states having yet to be called.
His tweets ranged from effusive praise for Republicans to a backhanded concession that Nancy Pelosi should become Speaker of the House, an unusual change from his usual fiery criticism of the California congresswoman.
“Nancy Pelosi, I give her a lot of credit. She works very and and she’s worked long and hard and I give her credit for what she’s accomplished, Trump said, reiterating his early morning tweet where he endorsed Pelosi for Speaker of the House.
Even before the presser, during his tweetstorm, the president couldn’t help but bash “fake news” pundits and “a nasty and hostile media” for “not giving us proper credit for this great Midterm Election.”
The president’s attacks on the media were applauded by Republican leaders, however. “We all value a free press, but it’s unfortunate that some reporters seem more interested in getting their own cable show than doing their jobs,” said RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel in a statement obtained by The Daily Beast, who sat in the front row of Wednesday’s press conference. “The media grandstanding has gone overboard.”
CNN issued its own statement after the presser, decrying that “This president’s ongoing attacks on the press have gone too far. They are not only dangerous, they are disturbingly un-American. While President Trump has made it clear he does not respect a free press, he has a sworn obligation to protect it. A free press is vital to democracy, and we stand behind Jim Acosta and his fellow journalists everywhere.”