Trump Says He Supports Freedom of Press in Iran, Contrary to Record at Home

President Trump puts his hand in front of NBC News’ Kelly O’Donnell in October 2019. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

One of the many curiosities of the first Twitter presidency is Trump’s direct outreach to the Iranian people online. After an apparent de-escalation of the conflict with Iran following retaliatory strikes on U.S. bases in Iraq, the president tweeted in Farsi to the Iranian public on Saturday, saying that he “will continue to stand with you” and that Americans are “following your protests closely, and are inspired by your courage.”

On Sunday, he reiterated his support amid the weekend protests, in which thousands of Iranians expressed their anger over the Khamenei government’s admission that it unintentionally shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane outside Tehran on Wednesday, killing all 176 people on board.

Though contradiction in Trump’s Twitter feed is a pattern with almost unlimited evidence, the president’s claim of supporting reporters abroad directly contradicts his messaging at home, where he has casually and consistently eroded the relationship between the White House and the press. From effectively ending press briefings to limiting access for reporters asking critical questions, the president has treated American journalists as a hostile force. To pick just the most recent example, at his Thursday rally in Ohio, Trump riffed on the merits of the reporters on site, telling his supporters that “they have some bad ones here tonight — some real sick ones … very dishonest people.” (This is to say nothing of one of his primary political slogans.)

It is important to delineate the president’s treatment of the press from that of the Khamenei government in Iran, where intelligence officers have reportedly threatened to “kidnap” Iranian journalists working abroad. It is important, also, to recall that Trump’s rhetoric at home is not without consequence. “We’ve had multiple cases of people using the same rhetoric as the president,” a TV news network security director told Mother Jones, describing threats sent to their reporters. And in late October 2018, Cesar Sayoc Jr., apparently inspired by the rhetoric of the president and his movement, mailed 16 non-functioning pipe bombs to targets he considered to be Trump’s enemies, including a package sent to CNN, which caused reporters to document the evacuation of their own building on the streets outside the Time Warner Center.

Trump Says He Supports Press Freedom in Iran, Despite Record