How Chuck Todd responded to Trump's vulgar insult

Trump's media jabs: Jokes or serious threats?
Trump's media jabs: Jokes or serious threats?

"Meet the Press" moderator Chuck Todd was in the news on Sunday -- but he decided not to play up President Trump's attack against him.

Trump revived his "sleepy eyes" insult on Saturday night and added to it: "Sleepy eyes Chuck Todd, he's a sleeping son of a bitch," the president said at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania.

Todd did not directly reference the insult on Sunday morning -- calling to mind the old journalistic adage that "we're not the story."

But he did bring up Trump's use of "vulgarities" during a contentious interview with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who sidestepped the point.

Todd is far from the first journalist who's had to weigh whether to respond to Trump attacks or deprive them of attention.

Related: Trump averages a "fake" insult every day. Really. We counted.

Maggie Haberman of The New York Times made a similar calculation on Sunday morning. Trump called her a "Hillary flunky" who "knows nothing about me and is not given access."

Haberman, who doubles as a CNN contributor, is widely seen as one of the country's top Trump reporters. She has interviewed him multiple times in the past year. So she responded to his bogus tweet with a simple "Lol."

CNN anchor Jake Tapper tweeted on Sunday that Haberman and Todd "are not only great journalists, they are good people. This crass name-calling is beneath the office of the presidency."

Other reporters also spoke up for the pair.

The jab at Todd was in some ways more serious because it came at a nationally televised rally. On CNN's "Reliable Sources," John Avlon, the editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast, said Trump rallies are "a tribal meeting." He said attacks against journalists like Todd are dangerous because they contribute to a threatening environment for the news media.

Trump also criticized the "fake" media at Saturday's rally, triggering boos from the crowd.

Related: Shithole to racist: One word from Trump gets newsrooms talking to one another

Salena Zito, a columnist, was there. She said on "Reliable Sources" that "it's part of the shtick."

April Ryan, a White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, strongly disagreed. "This is not shtick. It's not comedy. This is real and it's dangerous," she said.

"The problem is now, you know, when you make the press the enemy -- which he has -- there are people out here who are crazy enough to really feel that, and to act on it," Ryan added. Zito, Ryan and Avlon are all CNN contributors.

Ryan has personally described receiving death threats and hate mail in the past year.

The SOB comment about Todd "was wrong," Ryan said. "Chuck is a stalwart, he's fact-based and he works hard at what he does. This is not right, period."

Todd declined to comment on Trump on Sunday.

But on "Meet the Press," he alluded to the rally.

"Many people, including myself, raised their kids to respect the office of the presidency and the president of the United States," Todd said to Mnuchin. "When he uses vulgarity to talk about individuals, what are they supposed to tell their kids?"

Mnuchin tried to pivot to "what the president is doing to protect the United States," but Todd wasn't having it.

So "don't worry about his values, don't worry about him as a role model?"

"I've never said that whatsoever," Mnuchin said.

When the secretary said there were "a lot of funny moments at that rally," Todd responded with sarcasm, "Yes, they were hilarious."

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