President Trump, in an extraordinary rebuke of the nation’s press organizations, wrote on Twitter on Friday that the nation’s news media “is the enemy of the American people.”
Even by the standards of a president who routinely castigates journalists — and who on Thursday devoted much of a 77-minute news conference to criticizing his press coverage — Mr. Trump’s tweet was a striking escalation in his attacks.
At 4:32 p.m., shortly after arriving at his Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Fla., Mr. Trump took to Twitter to write:
The message was swiftly deleted, but 16 minutes later Mr. Trump posted a revised version. Restricted to 140 characters, he removed the word “sick,” and added two other television networks — ABC and CBS — to his list of offending organizations.
The president has referred to the media as the “opposition party” to his administration, and he has blamed news organizations for stymieing his agenda. But the language that Mr. Trump deployed on Friday is more typically used by leaders to refer to hostile foreign governments or subversive organizations. It also echoed the language of autocrats who seek to minimize dissent.
“Oh boy,” Carl Bernstein, the journalist who helped to uncover the Watergate scandal, said on Friday, after a reporter read him Mr. Trump’s tweet.
“Donald Trump is demonstrating an authoritarian attitude and inclination that shows no understanding of the role of the free press,” he added.
Historians pointed out similarities between Mr. Trump and Richard M. Nixon, who in 1972 told his national security adviser, Henry A. Kissinger, “The press is the enemy.”
Mr. Bernstein said the president’s language “may be more insidious and dangerous than Richard Nixon’s attacks on the press.”
“But there is a similarity in trying to divide the country, and make the conduct of the press the issue, instead of the conduct of the president,” he said.
Mr. Trump and his top advisers strongly believe that an elitist news media lost its credibility by failing to anticipate his political rise.
Still, the notion of the news media as an enemy of the public — especially when voiced by a sitting president — went a step beyond Mr. Trump’s usual rhetorical turns.
Mr. Trump’s tactic of pitting the press against the public was mirrored in a survey distributed by the president’s team on Thursday, which urged Trump supporters “to do your part to fight back against the media’s attacks and deceptions.”
Survey questions included, “Do you believe that the mainstream media has reported unfairly on our movement?” and “On which issues does the mainstream media do the worst job of representing Republicans? (Select as many that apply.)”
Mr. Trump has deleted tweets in the past, sometimes to correct for typos or to refine his message, and publications are keeping track of these fleeting missives.
On Thursday, Mr. Trump expressed his distaste for journalists in more populist terms, saying, “much of the media in Washington, D.C., along with New York, Los Angeles in particular, speaks not for the people, but for the special interests.”
“The public doesn’t believe you people anymore,” Mr. Trump added. “Now, maybe I had something to do with that. I don’t know. But they don’t believe you.”
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of the headline with this article misquoted the tweet President Trump wrote. He described the nation’s news media as the “enemy of the American people,” not the “enemy of the people.”