NYT: Trump Savages News Media at 100th Day Rally. CNN: Former WH Adviser David Gergen calls it “the most divisive speech I’ve ever heard from a sitting U.S. President”

HARRISBURG, Pa. — President Trump came to a farm expo center here on Saturday to celebrate his first 100 days in office by bathing in the support of his bedrock supporters, reprising the populist themes of his campaign, and savaging a familiar foe: the news media.

CLICK IMAGE ABOVE for link to NYT story. CLICK HERE for link to CNN story. 

In a rally timed to coincide with an annual dinner of the White House press corps in Washington, which he declined to attend, Mr. Trump laced into what he referred to as “the failing New York Times,” as well as CNN and MSNBC, which he accused of incompetence and dishonesty.

“Their priorities are not my priorities, and not your priorities,” Mr. Trump said to a sea of supporters, many in familiar red “Make America Great Again” caps. “If the media’s job is to be honest and tell the truth, the media deserves a very, very big fat failing grade,” he said, adding that they were “very dishonest people.”

Mr. Trump reveled in his decision to skip the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, describing a scene in which Hollywood stars and reporters consoled themselves in a Washington hotel ballroom, while he mixed with a better class of people in the American heartland.

The crowd responded with a chorus of boos and chants of “CNN sucks,” some turning to jeer reporters. Mr. Trump was interrupted several times by protesters, who were escorted out of the arena by the police, under a rain of catcalls and shouts that recalled the most bitter days of the campaign.

Mr. Trump saved some of his most colorful vitriol for The Times, lampooning its sale of its headquarters near Times Square — a “cathedral to journalism” — to move into a “very ugly office building in a very crummy location.” The new Times tower, designed by the architect Renzo Piano, sits across the street from the Port Authority bus terminal on the West Side of Manhattan.

“They covered it so badly,” he said of the election, “that they felt they were forced to apologize because their predictions were so bad.” The Times did not apologize for its election coverage.

After a turbulent debut in the White House, Mr. Trump spent the past week celebrating the achievements of his first 100 days. But his rally on Saturday took on a darker hue, filled with anger and resentment. He touched on familiar themes of lawless immigrants, unfair trade deals and a corrupt Washington establishment.

Yet Mr. Trump thoroughly reversed his hard line on another adversary: China. Citing the support of President Xi Jinping in pressuring the rogue regime in North Korea, he said it would have been counterproductive to label the Chinese currency manipulators.

“I don’t think right now is the best time to call China a currency manipulator,” Mr. Trump said, adding that the news media had been wrongheaded in saying that he had reversed a campaign promise on that issue.

Mr. Trump hailed his administration’s efforts to reduce illegal border crossings into the United States, and he vowed to fulfill his promise to build a wall on the southern border. “If the Democrats knew what the hell they were doing, they would approve it,” he said. “Obviously they don’t mind the illegals pouring in, the drugs pouring in. They don’t mind.”

The president’s attack on the news media started earlier in the day, when he said on Twitter that the “mainstream (FAKE) media refuses to state our long list of achievements, including 28 legislative signings, strong borders & great optimism!” 

The split-screen image that followed — journalists dining in black tie at what is normally one of the most swish events on the capital’s social calendar while Mr. Trump spoke to the crowd at the farm show center and, before that, toured a factory that makes landscaping and gardening tools — clearly delighted the White House.

Still, Mr. Trump’s thumb in the eye to the reveling press corps felt a bit manufactured. He spent much of the past week giving interviews to the same reporters he was to snub on Saturday night, including Jeff Mason of Reuters, who serves as president of the Correspondents’ Association.

White House officials had hoped to further vex the journalists by having Mr. Trump announce news in Harrisburg, which would spoil their evening, forcing them to set down their forks and knives and go to work.

But a plan for the president to announce in Harrisburg that the United States was pulling out of the North American Free Trade Agreement fell through when Mr. Trump decided, after urgent phone calls on Wednesday from the leaders of Canada and Mexico, not to do it — at least for now.

The White House then toyed with the idea of having Mr. Trump announce that he was ripping up the Korea Free Trade Agreement. But he stole his own thunder, telling The Washington Post on Thursday that the United States might terminate the five-year-old agreement.

“It’s a horrible deal. It was a Hillary Clinton disaster, a deal that should’ve never been made,” Mr. Trump said. In fact, President George W. Bush negotiated the agreement with South Korea in 2007, and President Barack Obama renegotiated it in 2010, which is effectively what Mr. Trump is now proposing to do.

For Mr. Trump, the rally punctuated a week of frenetic, all-hands-on-deck self-promotion linked to the 100-day mark — a stocktaking milestone that he had earlier dismissed as artificial and a “ridiculous standard.”

In addition to the president’s multiple interviews, most of Mr. Trump’s senior aides gave competing background briefings to reporters, in which they insisted that they were all part of a unified team under the president.

Wilbur Ross, the courtly billionaire who serves as commerce secretary, appeared so often in the White House briefing room to announce new trade initiatives that by Friday afternoon, he introduced himself with the line “Me again” and lamented the shrunken turnout, suggesting that maybe he had worn out the press corps.

Mr. Trump, however, did not flag in his superlative-laden claims. On Friday, he taped a weekly radio address in which he declared, with a rare caveat, “I truly believe that the first 100 days of my administration has been just about the most successful in our country’s history.” He did not say which of his predecessors might have outdone him.

The choice of Pennsylvania for the rally and factory tour was predictable, given the state’s crucial role in propelling him past Mrs. Clinton in the Electoral College. It seemed calculated to produce a reliable crowd rather than, for example, helping the White House turn wavering Republican votes in its effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

It also allowed Mr. Trump to escape the capital on a sweltering day when thousands rallied to protest his policies on climate change. Marching past Mr. Trump’s luxury hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, some carried placards that said, “100 Days of Destruction. Resist.”

Before his rally, Mr. Trump signed an executive order creating an office of trade and manufacturing policy in the White House. Peter Navarro, an academic who shaped the Trump campaign’s hard-line trade message, is to head the office, raising his profile in an administration divided between economic nationalists and more traditional free-traders.

“Its creation as a permanent office within the White House sends an important signal to the world that the United States will no longer tolerate trade cheating or allow our manufacturing and defense industrial base to wither and die,” the White House said in a statement.

CLICK IMAGE below to access former Presidential advisors David Gergen’s analysis of the speech on CNN.

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