Trump lashes out at media after ducking questions during trip

Mr Donald Trump greeting US service members at a rally in Sigonella Air Force Base at the end of his participation in the Group of Seven summit in Sicily, Italy, last Saturday.
Mr Donald Trump greeting US service members at a rally in Sigonella Air Force Base at the end of his participation in the Group of Seven summit in Sicily, Italy, last Saturday.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • United States President Donald Trump lashed out at the "fake news" media in a series of Twitter messages yesterday after wrapping up his first foreign trip as president - a nine-day excursion to places ranging from Saudi Arabia to Sicily - without once holding a news conference.

With no scheduled events yesterday, Mr Trump was back on social media with a string of messages critical of the media.

"It is my opinion that many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media," he told his almost 31 million Twitter followers.

"Whenever you see the words 'sources say' in the fake news media, and they don't mention names, it is very possible those sources don't exist but are made up by fake news writers. #FakeNews is the enemy!" he said.

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The US President is the only one of the Group of Seven leaders who declined to face the press during the summit. The other six all took questions from reporters while attending the gathering of major advanced economies.

But Mr Trump was able to avoid getting pinned down by a question-and-answer format in which he would face queries either about investigations at home or the nuances of US foreign policy positions.

While the recent firing of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director James Comey and an inquiry into ties between his campaign and Russia were subjects Mr Trump wanted to avoid discussing, that imperative was only heightened by revelations in the closing days of the trip about the FBI's growing interest in engagement with Russia by Mr Trump's son-in- law Jared Kushner.

TWEET ATTACK

It is my opinion that many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media.

MR DONALD TRUMP, in a message to his almost 31 million Twitter followers.

Not holding a press conference marked a breach of custom at a major global event where the US president traditionally faces the press at the end, and often during the trip as well.

Mr Trump capped off his trip with a speech last Saturday to US troops and a handful of in-flight tweets.

His predecessor Barack Obama turned his end-of-summit news conferences into epic affairs, often taking questions from nearly every US reporter who travelled on the trip. Former US presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton took questions too.

Earlier in the trip, Mr Trump fielded one or two shouted queries from reporters at events where no questions were supposed to be allowed - at least once with unfortunate results for the President.

At a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a reporter asked whether he still trusted the US authorities with sensitive intelligence following reports that Mr Trump had shared secret intelligence from Israel with the Russians during an Oval Office meeting.

Mr Trump stepped up to insist he had never said the word "Israel" in his talks with Russian officials - effectively confirming that nation as the source of the information.

Four months into his term, Mr Trump has typically taken two questions from the US press after bilateral meetings at the White House. He declined to do the same during several such talks on the just-ended trip, during which he met several heads of state.

Only one White House aide stood before TV cameras for a question-and-answer session during the nine days, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took a few questions during a briefing at a hotel in Riyadh a week ago.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2017, with the headline 'Trump lashes out at media after ducking questions during trip'. Print Edition | Subscribe