President Trump goes back to hitting his favorite punching bag: the media

Trump says he is at "war with the media"
Trump says he is at "war with the media"

After a smooth rollout of his nominee for the Supreme Court Tuesday night, President Trump went off-message the next morning, bashing the media during a White House meeting. The president overshadowed the meeting -- which was intended to kick off Black History Month and was largely attended by African-American members of his own staff -- with comments he made about the media.

"You read all about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago when somebody said I took the statue out of my office. It turned out that that was fake news," the president said towards the beginning of the meeting, to laughter from those in attendance.

"The statue is cherished. It's one of the favorite things in theā€”and we have some good ones. We have Lincoln and we have Jefferson and we have Dr. Martin Luther King and we have -- but they said the statue, the bust of Martin Luther King, was taken out of the office. And it was never even touched. So I think it was a disgrace but that's the way the press is. Very unfortunate."

The president was referring to a pool report circulated on Inauguration Day in which a Time magazine reporter wrote that the MLK bust was no longer in the Oval Office. The reporter later caught his mistake and issued an apology to the rest of the press corps and Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and Spicer accepted the apology.

But the president couldn't let it go, mocking the reporter for his mistake as he addressed the CIA the next day, only his second in office.

The White House's continued focus on the statue error is just one part of a larger attack on the press. Last week, Trump echoed a sentiment previously expressed by his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, that the media is the "opposition party."

Related: Is the media at war with Donald Trump?

"A lot of the media is actually the opposition party. They're so biased. It's a disgrace," he said on Wednesday conceding that some outlets are "fantastic and fair" but much of the media as he sees it knowingly says "incorrect things."

"It's a very sad situation. But we seem to be doing well. ... We won, so maybe they don't have the influence they think."

He pointedly singled out CNN during the meeting on Wednesday.

"Paris [Dennard, a CNN contributor] has done an amazing job in a very hostile CNN community. He's all by himself," he said as he went around the table introducing attendees. "But I don't watch CNN, so I don't get to see you as much. I don't like watching fake news."

The president did, however, have kind words for one network that he's felt very favorably towards lately: "Fox has treated me very nice, wherever Fox is, thank you."

-- CNN's Jeff Zeleny contributed reporting.

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