Trump's extreme rhetoric against the press is 'dangerous,' says New York Times CEO

Key Points
  • Criticism is one thing, but President Donald Trump's attacks on the press could be dangerous, says New York Times CEO Mark Thompson.
  • "It could encourage people to do crazy things in relation to news organizations and individual reporters," he says.
Watch CNBC's full interview with New York Times CEO Mark Thompson

President Donald Trump's attacks on the press could put reporters and news organizations in danger, New York Times CEO Mark Thompson told CNBC on Wednesday.

While the president is certainly entitled to his opinion on how journalists do their jobs, there are times when he can cross the line, he explained.

"Describing journalists from the Times and elsewhere as 'enemies of the people' and using extreme rhetoric about journalism, I think, is dangerous," Thompson said on "Power Lunch." "It could encourage people to do crazy things in relation to news organizations and individual reporters."

A man wears a shirt reading "Rope. Tree. Journalist." as supporters gather to rally with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in a cargo hangar at Minneapolis Saint Paul International Airport in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. November 6, 2016.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Trump has repeatedly claimed the press is biased against him and has referred to mainstream media outlets as "the enemy of the people."


After a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue and a series of mail bombings addressed to prominent Democrats and CNN last October, Trump pinned the blame, in part, on what he called the "Fake News Media."


The president recently sat down with the publisher of The New York Times, A.G. Sulzberger, as well as two of the paper's journalists, for an on-the-record conversation. During that interview, he called the news media "important" and "beautiful" as well as "so bad" and "unfair." He also said he was a "victim" of unfair coverage and didn't take responsibility for a rise in threats against journalists.

Thompson said during that interview, Sulzberger "had to admonish the president for the intemperate and irresponsible language he sometimes uses about journalism."

President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C.
Oliver Contreras | Bloomberg | Getty Images

As for Trump's complaints that he can't get positive news coverage in his hometown of New York, Thompson said the paper has said plenty of positive things about the economy and job growth. But, he added, it's not the paper's job to be positive or negative.

Instead, its job is to "report the facts, reach objective, impartial judgments about what's going on and to hold power to account," he said. "Our job with the president of the United States and with other powerful private-sector, public-sector individuals and institutions is to be — on behalf of the user, the reader — someone who tells the truth."

The White House didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

— CNBC's Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report.