Trump Appears to Threaten CNN Over Network's July 4th Speech Coverage

President Donald Trump attacked CNN for misrepresenting part of his July 4 speech, appearing to threaten the network he has long maligned as "fake news" and biased against him.

The president accused CNN of deliberately manipulating the "words and meaning" of his controversial July 4 speech delivered in front of Mount Rushmore, which drew condemnation from his critics for being divisive and inflammatory.

"Wow. @CNN got caught cold manipulating the words and meaning of my 4th of July Speech," Trump wrote in a tweet sent early Sunday morning. "They were brazen, desperate. Watch what happens!"

The president did not specify which part of CNN's coverage he took particular issue with. Newsweek has contacted the White House to request clarification on the president's remarks.

The network was generally critical of Trump's belligerent rhetoric and "fact-bending." But CNN actually defended Trump against accusations that the president confused the Iraq War with the Vietnam war when listing American military engagements of past decades.

A short video clip of Trump showed him discussing Desert Storm—the invasion of Iraq 1990 to push back Saddam Hussein's invasion of neighboring Kuwait—straight after mentioning the "dense fields and jungles of Vietnam."

The transcript of the speech shows that he did not meld the two wars together, but quickly transitioned from one to the next in his characteristic broken speech patterns.

CNN responded early Sunday via Twitter asking the president: "What. Are. You. Talking. About?" The network's communications team noted that CNN dispelled the suggestion that Trump confused Vietnam and Desert Storm.

What. Are. You. Talking. About? CNN fact-checked and dispelled the video clip that made it seem like you’d said Desert Storm happened in Vietnam.

— CNN Communications (@CNNPR) July 5, 2020

An article published on CNN's website did condemn the president for what it called a "jaw-dropping speech that amounted to a culture war bonfire" in front of Mount Rushmore on Friday.

The president claimed that recent nationwide protests—in which demonstrators have called for an end to police brutality and widespread reforms to address systemic American racism—constituted a siege of the U.S. by a "new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance."

Fascism is a far-right wing ideology which the president's administration has repeatedly been accused of straying toward in its more inflammatory rhetoric and performative nationalism.

"If you do not speak its language, perform its rituals, recite its mantras and follow its commandments, then you will be censored, banished, blacklisted, persecuted and punished," the president claimed. He suggested that protesters are waging a "merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children."

CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter said Friday that most people would not have even understood the president's address, suggesting it may have been written by Trump's far-right and anti-immigrant adviser Stephen Miller.

"I don't think this speech made any sense unless you had watched hundreds of hours of Fox News and you have read all of Newt Gingrich's books," Stelter said.

The president reiterated his zealous message at the "Salute to America" event held in Washington, D.C. on Saturday. "We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters, and the people who, in many instances, have absolutely no clue what they are doing," the president said in a speech.

"We will never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues, erase our history, indoctrinate our children," he added. The speech drew thousands of attendees who packed into the National Mall for a firework display despite concerns about coronavirus.

This article has been updated to include comment from CNN.

Donald Trump, speech, July 4, Washington, D.C.
President Donald Trump speaks during the 2020 "Salute to America" event in honor of Independence Day on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., July 4, 2020. SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images/Getty