Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Monday called on President Donald Trump to tone down his rhetoric, as the president escalated his attacks on the media, blaming the “fake news” for stoking “great anger” in the U.S.
Johnson, who served as Secretary of Homeland Security under President Barack Obama from 2013 to 2017, told CNN that recent hate crimes, including the massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue, “should be a wake-up call to all Americans to insist that their leaders tone it down and try to restore civility to our dialogue.”
“We’re in an environment now where there are deranged individuals who feel it’s their place to try to bring about change with an AR-15 or a series of pipe bombs,” Johnson said, adding that if he were still Homeland Security secretary, he’d be engaging with Trump, who has the “loudest microphone,” to “try to reset the tone” of the country’s political discourse.
Trump used Twitter Monday morning to rip the media as “the true enemy of the people” and blame the press for “great anger” in the U.S.
“There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news,” Trump wrote.
“The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open & obvious hostility & report the news accurately & fairly. That will do much to put out the flame…….of Anger and Outrage and we will then be able to bring all sides together in Peace and Harmony. Fake News Must End!” he added.
Later in the morning, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said on Twitter that “incendiary rhetoric” isn’t the “core problem” facing the country.
The problem, he wrote, is “the anger it taps into & stokes.”
“Anger moves people to donate & vote. And outrage is good for media ratings & online traffic,” Rubio added.
The tweets by Trump and Rubio came just two days after a horrific massacre on a Pittsburgh synagogue left 11 dead, and three days after a Florida man was charged with sending more than a dozen pipe bomb packages to prominent critics of Trump and to CNN.
The suspect in the pipe bomb case, a registered Republican named Cesar Sayoc, appeared to attend a Trump rally in West Palm Beach, Florida, in 2016. His Facebook page and Twitter accounts contained several postings in support of Trump.
Trump, for his part, has continued attacking critics in the days since Sayoc’s arrest and the shooting in Pittsburgh.
Before a rally in Murphysboro, Ill., Saturday night, Trump said that he planned to tone down his usual campaign event remarks. But his speech was full of attacks on familiar foils, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.