President Donald Trump and the Wall Street Journal are embroiled in a war of words over, well, a word.
Last week, Trump sat down for an interview with the paper and at one point referenced his relationships with leaders throughout Asia, including Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese president Xi Jinping. He also referenced Kim Jong-un of North Korea, however, and that’s where the confusion and conflict come in.
This week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump claimed, “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea,” a statement which, for obvious reasons, raised some eyebrows. North Korea and the U.S. are in the midst of escalating military tensions, with threats of war and destruction being lobbed back and forth between the two leaders. North Korea is also reportedly working towards completing a ballistic missile that could theoretically deliver a nuclear bomb to the American mainland.
The Wall Street Journal stated falsely that I said to them “I have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un” (of N. Korea). Obviously I didn’t say that. I said “I’d have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un,” a big difference. Fortunately we now record conversations with reporters…— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2018
The Trump administration has since come out swinging against the Wall Street Journal, maintaining that the paper misquoted the president. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted out an image on Saturday fervently insisting Trump had been misquoted.
She subsequently tweeted out the White House’s audio recording of the remark.
Sanders’ tweet came mere minutes after the Wall Street Journal released its own audio of the exchange, which is considerably more crisp and higher quality. In the Journal‘s audio, it sounds pretty clear that its reporting was correct, and that Trump said “I” rather than “I’d,” asserting a relationship that already existed.
We have reviewed the audio from our interview with President Trump, as well as the transcript provided by an external service, and stand by what we reported. Here is audio of the portion the White House disputes. https://t.co/eWcmiHrXJg pic.twitter.com/bx9fGFWaPw— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) January 14, 2018
Obviously, the administration does not seem ready or willing to back down from this claim. The image Sanders tweeted out lambasted the Wall Street Journal, traditionally considered a right-leaning publication, as “fake news,” which is one of the president’s favorite lines of attack.
Trump’s anti-media attacks may soon spur some backlash from a member of his own party. Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican, is reportedly planning to publicly denounce the administration’s combative and derogatory statements about the media sometime this week. According to NBC News, he’s expected to give a speech on the Senate floor condemning Trump’s portrayal of the press as the “enemy of the people” as Stalinist rhetoric.