US President Donald Trump has stepped up his feud with the media by tweeting a mock video of himself tackling and repeatedly striking a man in a business suit, his face obscured by the CNN logo, outside a wrestling ring.
- It is unclear who made the video but it appears to be doctored from 2007 footage
- Critics slammed Mr Trump's media attacks as encouraging autocrats around the world
- The video follows several days of sustained attacks by Mr Trump against the media
As a presidential candidate and as commander-in-chief, Mr Trump has repeatedly made known his disdain for the media, calling it "the enemy of the American people" and frequently referring to mainstream news organisations as "failing" or "fake news".
But observers said the video took his criticism to a new level and drew criticism on social media.
"It is a sad day when the President of the United States encourages violence against reporters," CNN said in a statement."Instead of preparing for his overseas trip, his first meeting with Vladimir Putin, dealing with North Korea and working on his health care bill, he is instead involved in juvenile behaviour far below the dignity of his office."
The video appeared to be a modified version of a 2007 appearance by Mr Trump at World Wrestling Entertainment's WrestleMania 23 promotion, in which Mr Trump "takes down" WWE chairman Vince McMahon — in Sunday's video, McMahon's head has been replaced with the CNN logo.
Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth, among many others, were quick to respond on Twitter.
Incredible. Trump thinks it's appropriate to circulate mock video of him as head of state beating a CNN journalist. Autocrats are rejoicing. https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/881503147168071680 …
White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert defended the tweet, saying: "No one would perceive that as a threat. I hope they don't."
"[Mr Trump is] beaten up in a way on cable platforms that he has a right to respond to," he added, referring to the coverage of the President by cable networks.
Mr Roth later added: "Some are defending this video claiming Trump is physically attacking CNN network, not a journalist, as if that makes it any more appropriate."
'My use of social media is MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL'
Video: Morning Joe hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough have become critics of Donald Trump's administration. (ABC News)The latest tweet follows a series of attacks on the media and specific personalities by Mr Trump, prompting fears of violence against journalists from observers.
Donald J. Trump
My use of social media is not Presidential - it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL. Make America Great Again!
Dragging the attack into a third day, Mr Trump tweeted on Saturday: "Crazy Joe Scarborough and dumb as a rock Mika are not bad people, but their low rated show is dominated by their NBC bosses. Too bad!"
Mr Trump continued his Twitter tirade into the evening with a series of tweets defending his use of social media and attacking the media.
"The FAKE & FRAUDULENT NEWS MEDIA is working hard to convince Republicans and others I should not use social media — but remember, I won the 2016 election," he said.The President also said his use of Twitter was "MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL", not presidential, and introduced a new hashtag: #FraudNewsCNN.