A year ago Donald Trump was too busy campaigning for the White House to attend the most important gathering of conservatives in the country.

Now, he has used his first address as President to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington DC, to launch a fresh and barbed attack on the media, saying it continually invents stories about him and his government.

“A few days ago, I called the fake news ‘the enemy of the people’, and they are. They are the enemy of the people,” he said. “Because they have no sources. They just make them up where there are none.”

A day after top political adviser Steve Bannon had at the same event once again called the media “the opposition”, Mr Trump insisted that he was not against the press, or even negative stories about him.

But he claimed he was a repeated victim of misreporting. By means of an example, he highlighted what he claimed was the “dishonest” way in which one of his tweets was reported.

Mr Trump sparked widespread controversy earlier in the month, when he said in a tweet that the “fake news media was the enemy of the American people”. The comment was widely denounced by media rights groups, along with some of Mr Trump’s supporters.

But on Friday, Mr Trump said that the media had misreported his tweet. He said he was not referring to all the media, merely those elements of it that engaged in what he termed “fake news”.

 

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“They’re very dishonest people. In fact, covering my comments the dishonest media did not explain that I had called the fake news the enemy of the people. The fake news. They dropped the word ‘fake’,” he said.

“And all of a sudden, the story became ‘the media is the enemy’. They take the word ‘fake’ out. And now I’m saying ‘Oh no. This is not good’. But that’s the way they are.”

Mr Trump’s relationship with the media has taken a shifting course over the years. In the 1980s and 1990s, he was frequently the topic of racy stories about his business deals or his relationships, in the New York tabloids.

This was a largely symbiotic arrangement. During the election campaign, it emerged that Mr Trump has almost certainly posed as his own spokesman – named John Miller – when he spoke with some reporters about the businessman’s latest dealings. 

And Mr Trump’s own relationship with the truth has also been somewhat elastic. He has made numerous false statements, ranging from the size of the crowd that attended his inauguration, the scale of his electoral college win, and even a claim that he had been on the cover of Time magazine more than anyone else.

During the election campaign, Mr Trump repeatedly denounced the media, calling reporters “terrible people” and “scum”. Since assuming the Oval Office, the relationship has only become testier, with the President even refusing to take a question from CNN after it reported about the existence of unproven allegations about his relationship with Russia.

Despite this, it appears Mr Trump appears to remain fixated on the media and the coverage he receives. He is known to watch CNN and Fox News, and read The New York Times, the New York Post and The Washington Post.

“I’m not against the media, I’m not against the press. I don’t mind bad stories if I deserve them. And I tell you, I love good stories, but we don’t get too many of them,” he said.

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“But I’m only against the fake news media or press. Fake. Fake… I’m against the people who make up stories and make up sources. They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name.”

The Associated Press said that Mr Trump’s speech was delivered just hours after members of his own staff held a press briefing in which they refused to attach their names to the information. 

The President also told the meeting he would make a massive budget request for one of the “greatest military buildups in American history”, as he extolled his “America first” policies.

Ahead of a nationally televised speech to the US Congress on Tuesday, Mr Trump outlined plans for strengthening the US military, already the world’s most powerful, and other initiatives, though he again offered few specifics.

He said he would aim to substantially upgrade the military in both offensive and defensive capabilities, with a massive spending request that would make the country’s defence “bigger and better and stronger than ever before”.

“And, hopefully, we’ll never have to use it, but nobody is going to mess with us,” he said. “Nobody. It will be one of the greatest military build-ups in American history.”

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