Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and the president of CNN criticized President Donald Trump for his harsh rhetoric toward Democrats and the media in the wake of multiple bombs sent to current and former Democratic government officials.
“Words matter, particularly when they’re spoken by those at the top of government,” Flake told CNN during a visit to New York City. An explosive device addressed to former CIA director John Brennan was sent to the CNN bureau there. Other devices were sent to former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.
“What the president says matters, and if he were to take a more civil tone, it would make a difference. It would help. And so I hope that he does,” Flake added.
CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker was even more direct.
“There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media,” Zucker said. “The president, and especially the White House press secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that.”
A bomb was also discovered Monday in a mailbox outside the home of billionaire Democratic donor George Soros in New York.
Flake told CNN that Trump should not label the news media as “the enemy of the people” because that can lead to incidents such as what’s occurring.
“Civility can’t wait until after an election. The president shouldn’t refer to the press as the enemy of the people. We all need to watch the rhetoric that we use. It makes a difference,” Flake said. “People hear that and they follow it.”
Trump often criticizes CNN for reporting what he calls fake news. Reporters and anchors at the network have pushed back and have vowed to continue doing their job despite the verbal assault.
On Wednesday after the bomb was discovered at CNN, the building was evacuated and the network was forced to broadcast from another studio. As of Wednesday afternoon, reporters from that network and others were still reporting outside the building.
CNN anchor Chris Cuomo was on the air just after 3:30 p.m. and said the building was reopened.
“Any intention to scare us out of the norm has failed, as did the devices that were sent around,” Cuomo said.
In an apparent unrelated case, Flake told The Arizona Republic that there was suspicious activity against him over the weekend but declined to provide details. He said it did not seem tied to the bombs.