The wrestling video, which was also posted to the official @POTUS Twitter account, stirred criticism, disbelief and dumbfoundedness. Some journalists denounced its portrayal of violence as dangerous, saying it could incite attacks or threats against news media employees.
âI think it is unseemly that the president would attack journalists for doing their jobs, and encourage such anger at the media,â said Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The New York Times.
The administration did not respond to a request for comment. Mr. Trumpâs homeland security adviser, Thomas Bossert, defended the video when he viewed it for the first time during a broadcast interview with Martha Raddatz of ABC News. âNo one would perceive that as a threat,â Mr. Bossert said. âI hope they donât.â
âHeâs a genuine president expressing himself genuinely,â Mr. Bossert added.
A version of Mr. Trumpâs video appeared last week on a Trump-dedicated page on the message board site Reddit, a popular meeting ground for some of the presidentâs most fervent supporters. The CNN logo is superimposed on what appears to be the head of Vince McMahon, a wrestling magnate and a friend of Mr. Trump, who in his prepresidential years often appeared as a guest on wrestling shows.
Mr. Trumpâs fans on Reddit were exuberant about what they viewed as validation from the countryâs most powerful man. âI love this,â wrote a user identified as American_Crusader. âYou know he saw it, chuckled, and knew he could control the media narrative for days by hitting the âpostâ button. So he did.â
The presidentâs allies say that his attacks on the news media are justified, arguing that the president is merely defending himself from coverage that his supporters view as biased. Mr. Trumpâs war of words with CNN is especially popular with his voter base.
News media advocates, however, have raised alarms about a recent spate of arrests and assaults on working journalists, including a high-profile episode in which a Montana congressional candidate, Greg Gianforte, assaulted a reporter for The Guardian, breaking his glasses. (Mr. Gianforte, a Republican, went on to win a House seat the next day. He later apologized to the reporter.)
Groups like the Committee to Protect Journalists, which usually focuses on countries where reportersâ freedoms are curtailed, say they are concerned that Mr. Trumpâs campaign-trail rebukes of news organizations are now being issued from the pulpit of the White House.
âTargeting individual journalists or media outlets, on- or off-line, creates a chilling effect and fosters an environment where further harassment, or even physical attack, is deemed acceptable,â Courtney Radsch, the advocacy director for the Committee to Protect Journalists, wrote in a statement on Sunday, adding that Mr. Trumpâs comments may embolden âautocratic leaders around the world.â
Mr. Trump, who is spending part of the weekend at his Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., posted the wrestling tweet just as prominent Republicans began appearing on the major Sunday news programs. On CNN, Senator Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican and frequent Trump critic, accused the president of âweaponizing distrustâ toward the news media.
âThereâs an important distinction to draw between bad stories or crappy coverage, and the right that citizens have to argue about that and complain about that,â Mr. Sasse said.
But Tom Price, the health and human services secretary, bristled when asked on the NBC program âMeet the Pressâ about Mr. Trumpâs string of anti-media remarks.
âThis is really remarkable,â Mr. Price said to the moderator, Chuck Todd. âYour program â a program with the incredible history of âMeet the Pressâ â and thatâs what you want to talk about?â
Some White House aides said privately on Sunday that the president was being held to a double standard. They argued that Mr. Trumpâs video was akin to a recent exchange on MSNBC, in which the host, Chris Matthews, was discussing Mr. Trumpâs son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and jokingly praised the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini for ordering the execution of his son-in-law.
Ari Fleischer, who was a press secretary to President George W. Bush, wrote on Twitter that he found Mr. Trumpâs video to be âin poor taste.â But he added: âThe reason POTUS does it is because the press has made themselves so unpopular. Itâs a fight POTUS actually wins w much of the country.â
Mr. Trump regularly accuses CNN of bias, and he taunted the network last week after it was forced to retract a story about one of his close allies. On Saturday, hours before posting the wrestling video, Mr. Trump tweeted to his 33 million followers, âI am thinking about changing the name #FakeNews CNN to #FraudNewsCNN!â
On Sunday, CNN issued its response.
âIt is a sad day when the president of the United States encourages violence against reporters,â the network said in a statement. âInstead 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 involved in juvenile behavior far below the dignity of his office. We will keep doing our jobs. He should start doing his.â
In keeping with the online nature of many of Mr. Trumpâs disputes, CNN also replied directly to the president on Twitter, highlighting a quotation from a recent White House briefing by his deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
âThe president in no way form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence,â Ms. Sanders told reporters on Thursday. âIf anything, quite the contrary.â