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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday defended President Donald Trump's continued attacks on the news media and prominent Democrats who were targeted with mail bombs, saying the president is drawing "contrasts."
Sanders' remarks came during her first press briefing in nearly four weeks and just days after more than a dozen explosive devices addressed to CNN and high-profile Democrats were intercepted by postal services and law enforcement officials. In a separate incident, a gunman carrying multiple weapons entered a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday and opened fire, killing 11 people and injuring six others.
Sanders also announced at the top of the briefing that Trump and first lady Melania Trump will travel to Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
Trump, in the wake of the events, has claimed that "Fake News" has caused "great anger in our Country."
"The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open & obvious hostility & report the news accurately & fairly," Trump said in a tweet Monday morning.
"The president is going to continue to draw contrasts particularly as we go into the final days of the election – the differences between the two parties, particularly on policy differences," Sanders said.
When a reporter asked Sanders how Trump could blame the media when the suspected bomber, Cesar Sayoc, was an avid Trump supporter, Sanders pushed back hard.
"The very first thing that the president did was condemn the attacks, both in Pittsburgh and in the pipe bombs," she said. "The very first thing that the media did was blame the president and make him responsible for these ridiculous acts."
She added: "The only person responsible for carrying out either of these heinous acts were the individual who carried it out."
When reminded in a follow-up that the president had placed blame on the media, Sanders bristled. "No, the president's not placing blame. The president's not responsible for these acts," she said.
After the Time Warner Center in midtown Manhattan — home of CNN's New York offices — was evacuated Wednesday, the head of the news network strongly criticized both Trump and Sanders.
"There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media," CNN President Jeff Zucker said in a statement. "The President, and especially the White House press secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that."
CNN's Public Relations account on Twitter said that Sanders mischaracterized Zucker's statement.
Sanders did not explicitly name CNN in particular during those remarks.