Asked for his message to frightened Americans during the national emergency over the coronavirus pandemic, Donald Trump instead attacked the reporter as “terrible” and claimed he was sensationalising the outbreak.
During a White House press conference on Friday, NBC News reporter Peter Alexander was stunned when the president responded: “I would say you’re a terrible reporter … I think it’s a very nasty question, and I think it’s a very bad signal you’re putting out to the American people.”
The president said that “the American people are looking for answers and they’re looking for hope” and accused NBC of “doing sensationalism” instead.
CNN’s John King said Mr Alexander asked a “perfectly valid question”.
“What the president did to Peter Alexander is reprehensible”, said Mr King, calling the president’s remarks a “Trump trademark” and a “bulls*** attack on fake news.”
The president’s message stands in stark contrast to several messages to Americans from his Democratic rivals Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, the latter of whom has broadcast several “fireside chats” to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic and promote ways to help vulnerable communities.
During the press conference, Mr Trump also appeared to not recognise his former press secretary Sean Spicer — now working as a reporter — when he asked the president a question.
After wordlessly pointing at Mr Spicer as he took questions at the briefing, Mr Trump addressed him, saying “in the back, please”.
The former press secretary asked about small businesses recovering from the economic fallout from the pandemic. The president cut him off, saying that he was discussing support for small businesses with members of the Senate.
He also asked what the president thinks about reports of senators dumping stocks after learning about the likely financial crisis in intelligence briefings.
The president said he was “not aware” of the reports: “They say they did nothing wrong. I find the whole group very honourable people.”
Mr Trump’s Friday press conference followed a chaotic week at the White House under pressure to respond to a growing crisis after battling claims that the administration did not move quickly enough as the virus began to spread.
The president continued to blame former president Barack Obama‘s administration for a shortage in adequate testing abilities, despite Mr Trump’s control over those relative agencies over the last three years and his decision to disband a pandemic response team.
Mr Trump also called the US State Department the “deep State department” while the agency’s secretary Mike Pompeo stood beside him.
Secretary Pompeo said he “knows how much” the president values the department’s employees.
The president said: “What a good answer.”