President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shared in their mutual scorn for the press as they sat surrounded by journalists at the G-20 summit in Osaka on Friday, the one-year anniversary of the Capital Gazette newsroom shooting that left five dead.
“Get rid of them,” Trump jokingly said of reporters.
“Fake news is a great term, isn’t it? You don’t have this problem in Russia, but we do,” the U.S. president continued.
“We also have,” Putin replied. “It’s the same.”
Trump told reporters the day before that his conversations with the Russian president are “none of your business.”
In Russia, 38 journalists have been murdered since 1992, with 26 of those occurring in the years Putin served as president, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
It was a surreal moment that occurred one year to the day after a gunman opened fire in the Maryland paper’s newsroom, killing staffers Wendi Winters, Rebecca Smith, Robert Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman and John McNamara.
The shooter, Jarrod Ramos, has pleaded not criminally responsible ― which The Washington Post defines as Maryland’s version of the insanity defense ― in the case that will be split into two trials. Ramos had a long-running feud with the Gazette and sued it for defamation in 2012.
Trump was immediately excoriated in the aftermath of the shooting for his habit of making incendiary remarks about the press, routinely claiming that negative stories about him and his administration are “fake news” and labelling journalists as “the enemy of the people.” In July 2017, he landed in hot water for tweeting a video of himself beating up WWE owner Vince McMahon, except McMahon’s head had been covered with a CNN logo.
Trump responded to the Gazette shooting by stating that it had “shocked the conscience of our nation and filled our hearts with grief,” adding that ”[j]ournalists like all Americans should be free of the fear of being violently attacked while doing their jobs.”
But he resumed his attacks on the press in the following weeks.
The G-20 summit marked Trump’s first formal meeting with Putin since last July’s controversial Helsinki meeting, and his first since special counsel Robert Mueller finished his report concluding that Russia had meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Asked whether he would discuss the interference problem with Putin, Trump smirked and wagged his finger at the Russian president, saying, “Don’t meddle in the election.”
Putin and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo both laughed.