In perhaps his most sustained attack on the news media, Donald Trump blasted reporters for raising questions about his charitable efforts on behalf of veterans, calling them "losers," "unbelievably dishonest" and "sleazy".
Trump has repeatedly criticised the media during his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, but his morning news conference at Trump Tower in New York was unusually angry and personal. He singled out one journalist, Tom Llamas of ABC News, as "a sleaze," and another, Jim Acosta of CNN, as "a real beauty" for his reporting on his campaign.
Trump was on the defensive because of questions about his fundraising for veterans' organizations. He skipped a Republican debate before the Iowa caucuses in January to hold a televised event for veterans that he said raised $6 million.
But several media organizations, including The Washington Post, have reported discrepancies in the amount Trump said was raised and the actual contributions made. In the intervening months, Trump's campaign gave little information about how much was raised and which organizations would receive contributions.
Trump said that the event brought in $5.6 million, and that incoming donations will push the final total over $6 million. The presumptive Republican nominee also has said he would personally give $1 million.
Trump has benefited from significant media attention during the presidential campaign and has given innumerable interviews. At the same time, he has been critical of the coverage of his campaign.
But it was the manner that Trump savaged the reporters who had assembled in the lobby of Trump Tower on Tuesday that was extraordinary. He appeared to resent that reporters had dared to push his campaign for details about a fundraising effort that garnered enormous attention and goodwill to Trump's presidential campaign.
"I don't want the credit" for raising the money, he said at one point. "But I shouldn't be lambasted for it."
Asked by a reporter if he thought journalists were dishonest in seeking answers, Trump replied, "Not all of you. Just many of you. ... I think the political press is among the most dishonest people I've met."
He was just getting started.
When asked by CNN's Acosta about handling the "scrutiny" that comes with being a leading presidential candidate, Trump bristled: "I like scrutiny," he said, before adding derisively, "I've seen you on TV. Excuse me, you're a real beauty."
He responded to a question from Llamas by calling him "the sleazy guy from ABC. You're a sleaze because you're dishonest."
After another reporter asked if Trump would treat inquiries into his presidency with similar invective, the billionaire said, "It is going to be like this. If the press writes false stories like this. ... (If) we have to read probably libelous stories, and the people know the stories are false, I'm going to attack the press. I find the press dishonest and the political press, unbelievably dishonest."
The news conference was held almost concurrently with the unsealing of documents in a lawsuit over Trump University, a now defunct for-profit real-estate school that former students have accused of fraud. Trump has attacked the judge hearing the case, calling U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel a "hater" and noting that Curiel is, "we believe, Mexican."
ABC defended Llamas in a statement, calling him "one of the best journalists in the country. He is also one of the most respectful and respected."
Moments after the news conference, Llamas tweeted: "Trump just called me a sleaze. Should be an interesting week."