White House press secretary Sarah Sanders appeared to tear up as she addressed the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting that left 11 dead during Monday’s press briefing, the first one she has held in weeks.
“The president is the grandfather of several Jewsh grandchildren. His daughter is a Jewish-American, and his son-in-law is the descendent of Holocaust survivors,” Sanders said, becoming choked up with emotion.
She also said that President Trump and first lady Melania Trump will travel Tuesday to meet with the families of victims in the shooting.
“The president wants, in the moments where our country is hurting like we’ve seen in the last several days, to bring our country together, and we’ve seen him do exactly that,” Sanders said.
There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news. The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open & obvious hostility & report the news accurately & fairly. That will do much to put out the flame...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2018
....of Anger and Outrage and we will then be able to bring all sides together in Peace and Harmony. Fake News Must End!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2018
One journalist, ABC’s Jonathan Karl, pointed out that the man allegedly behind the pipe bomb plot attended Trump rallies, and that the man suspected in the Pittsburgh shooting was apparently provoked by the caravan of immigrants Trump has denounced.
“When you say he’s trying to unite the country, why is he out there making these attacks?” Karl asked.
Sanders responded by turning it on the media: “The very first thing that the president did was condemn the attacks, both in Pittsburgh and in the pipe bombs. The very first thing the media did was blame the president and make him responsible for these ridiculous acts. That is outrageous,” she said.
“Why is the president suggesting it’s the news media? It’s the president placing blame here,” Karl responded.
“No, the president is not placing blame. The president is not responsible for these acts,” Sanders said.
After a pipe bomb was sent to CNN in New York on Wednesday, the network’s president, Jeff Zucker, condemned the White House’s ongoing verbal attacks on the media: “There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media. The president, and especially the White House Press Secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that,” Zucker said.
When asked during Monday’s briefing what could be done to stop shootings like the one in Pittsburgh, Sanders responded: “I think if we had a good answer to that, everyone in the country would support it. If anyone knows the answer, this administration would be all ears.”
CNN reporter Jim Acosta also got into a back-and-forth with Sanders, asking if she thought the White House should reserve the term “enemy” for more serious foes of the country.
“The president’s not referencing all media. He’s talking about the growing amount of fake news that exists in the country, and the president’s calling that out,” she responded.
Acosta then followed up, asking her to specifically name the news outlets that Trump considered the “enemy of the people.”
When Sanders tried to duck the question by saying there were certain individuals the president was referencing, and that they knew who they were, Acosta went at the question from a different angle.
“Would that include my outlet, which received a bomb last week?” Acosta asked.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily specific, to a general, a broad generalization of a full outlet at times. I think there’s individuals the president would be referencing,” Sanders said, before trying to move on.
But Acosta continued his line of questioning: “So you’re not going to state for the record then — I mean, if the president says the fake news media is the enemy of the people, and if you’re going to stand there and continue to say there are some journalists, some news outlets in this country that meet that characterization, shouldn’t you have the guts, Sarah, to state which outlets, which journalists, are the enemy of the people?”
“I think it’s irresponsible for an outlet like yours to blame responsibility of a pipe bomb that was not sent by the president . . . for those heinous acts — I think that is outrageous and irresponsible,” she replied.
When Acosta tried to respond, Sanders cut him off, saying, “Jim, I’ve given you three questions,” before moving on to a different journalist.