CNN host John King said Thursday that no one is blaming President Donald Trump for unexploded pipe bombs sent to prominent Democrats and media figures, after a day and a half of speculation about Trump's culpability.
Authorities this week have discovered pipe bombs and suspicious packages sent to Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Calif.), former CIA Director John Brennan, billionaire liberal activist George Soros, and actor Robert De Niro. The package addressed to Brennan, an MSNBC contributor, was delivered to CNN's office at the Time Warner Center in New York City, forcing the network to evacuate the building.
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On Wednesday, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence made statements condemning any form of political violence, with Trump promising "an aggressive investigation" to discover who sent the packages. The next day, Trump tweeted criticism of the media for ginning up "anger" with inaccurate and misleading reporting.
In response, King defended the media on air, saying no one is blaming Trump for the pipe bombs.
"No one's blaming the president," King said. "Is anyone blaming the president? But the president now wants to make it about him."
King made the comment as the chyron below him on screen appeared to imply that Trump incited whoever sent the packages.
"CNN: Trump has no plans to claim any personal responsibility for inciting serial bomber," the graphic read.
In addition, CNN President Jeff Zucker attacked Trump for his rhetoric hours after the network received one of the packages.
King said that Trump lost his chance to lead on the matter and unify the country when he tweeted that "the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media" has caused people to be angry. Trump called on the media to "clean up its act."
One of King's guests, Politico reporter Rachael Bade, then speculated that Trump is responsible for inciting the bomb maker to mail the explosives. Bade's comments are in keeping with much of the media coverage of the packages, for which Trump has been partially blamed because of his rhetoric.
"Of course he played no role in this," Bade said, referring to the creation of the bombs. "But you have to look at the greater context to this atmosphere he has created in Washington in attacking the media, and you have to wonder if that contributed to what happened yesterday."
Other panelists said Trump is making the matter worse with his criticism of the media.
"That idea of what atmosphere we have in our country right now, he's not doing anything to tone it down," said Washington Post reporter Matt Viser. "He is reacting to his base instinct, which is to blame others."
The Federalist's Mary Katharine Ham pushed back on the idea that rhetoric leads to violence.
"I think in coverage of this, there is a pretty clear implication by much of it that rhetoric inevitably leads to violence. And I actually think that is not a great thing to be saying," Ham said.
"If you make the clear implication that speech you object to—and by the way, it's very tempting to say that it's only the speech you object to that causes violence—causes violence, then we are in a bad situation with the freedoms the First Amendment affords us and that we enjoy here every single day," she said. "I think that is a political temptation, that too many people go down the road."
Ham added that investigators still do not know who sent the packages or what their motive is. After the commercial break, King had a discussion on how incendiary rhetoric on the political left could also be harming the country, in addition to such rhetoric on the political right.
The New York Times is one of many outlets that has published articles asserting that Trump bears some blame for the bombs.
"There is no way to consider the explosive devices sent to prominent Democrats and the CNN offices and not recall that Donald Trump himself has created a toxic environment by openly targeting many of these very people and entities in his overheated, overwrought rhetoric," Times columnist Charles Blow wrote.
"We don't yet know who sent the pipe bombs to various high-profile Democrats and a news media outlet in recent days, much less the motives," Eyal Press wrote in the Times. "What we do know is that all of the recipients have frequently been demonized by prominent voices on the right, most notably President Trump."
After the bombs were discovered, the Times also published an article fantasizing about Trump being assassinated.
King's comments about no one blaming Trump for the suspicious packages came on the same day that an open letter accusing Trump of inciting violence against the press, to which at least 200 journalists signed their names, was published.