Donald Trump has launched a wide-ranging and at times incoherent attack on the media, accusing journalists of deliberately lying and saying leaks about his administration’s ties to Russia were “real” but the news was “fake”.
In a rambling and chaotic news conference in Washington, the US President repeated his accusation that reporters were "dishonest" and had spread misinformation about his first month in power.
But his statement appeared to be entirely contradictory, and prompted fierce questioning from reporters in the audience.
"The leaks are absolutely real, the news is fake, because so much of the news is fake," Mr Trump said.
The attack on the media appeared to be pre-meditated and came after a torrid few days for the President, amid mounting pressure over his and his team's links to Russia.
He insisted he could handle a bad story "better than anybody" but only if it was true and said he would make a "pretty good reporter".
Asked by a CNN reporter for clarification on the apparently mixed message of "real" leaks but "fake" news, Mr Trump replied: “The reporting is fake. The public read newspapers, they see television. They don’t know if it is true or false because they are not involved.
"But I am involved, so I know when you're telling the truth and when you’re not.”
The Republican billionaire, visibly agitated, clashed with journalists throughout the lengthy question and answer session, telling the room, "quiet, quiet, quiet", at one point and instructing a reporter to sit down mid-sentence.
He also took aim at the BBC, after the broadcaster’s North America Editor Jon Sopel was chosen to ask a question.
“Here’s another beauty,” Mr Trump said. “It’s a good line. Impartial, free and fair”, the BBC reporter replied.
“Yea, sure, just like CNN,” the President responded.
However, he insisted he was “actually having a very good time” and described reporters at Fox News, a conservative-leaning broadcaster, as “very honourable people”.
“I’m not ranting and raving I love this, I’m having a good time,” Mr Trump said, adding that he was changing his mantra of “fake news” to “very fake news”.
“I know when you’re telling the truth and when you’re not," he said.
“I just see many, many untruthful things, and you know what else I see, I see tone, you know the word tone.
“The tone is such hatred. I’m really not a bad person by the way.”
Questioned on whether he was undermining the freedom of the press by calling stories he did not like "fake news", Mr Trump responded: “I know when I should get good and get bad, and sometimes I’ll say, ‘Wow, that’s going to be a great story’, and I get killed.
"I know what is good and bad, I’d be a pretty good reporter.”
He added: "There is nobody I have more respect for, well maybe a little bit, than reporters, good reporters. It’s very important to me, especially in this position, it’s very important.
"I don’t mind bad stories, I can handle a bad story better than anybody, as long as it’s true.
"And over a course of time I’ll make mistakes, but I’m not OK when it’s fake.
"I watch CNN, there is so much anger and hatred, I don’t watch it anymore.
"I think it [news] should be straight, I think it would be frankly more interesting….they’d actually be better.
"You [journalists] have a lower approval rating than congress, I think that’s right."
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