President Donald Trump defended his attacks on the press as the "enemy of the people" in an exclusive interview with Axios set to air on Sunday.
Jim Van de Hei challenged the president on the risks of his charged rhetoric.
"To be honest, what scares the crap out of me is if you're saying... 'enemy of the people,' 'enemy of the people,' what happens if someone gets shot?" Van de Hei asked Trump.
"They like me more because of it," Trump boasted. "But if you gave me false reports, I would say that's not a good thing for our country," Trump added after Van de Hei asked Trump if he sees Axios as an "enemy of the people."
The exchange continued:
"You are the most powerful man in the world," Van de Hei said to Trump, who smirked at the compliment. "And if you say that word — 'enemy,' 'enemy,' 'enemy' — think about what enemy means."
"I think I'm doing a service [by attacking the press] when people write stories about me that are so wrong," Trump responded. "I know what I do good and what I do bad. I really get it, OK? I really get it better than anybody in the whole world."
"Tens of thousands of people go into a stadium to listen to you, and then people go on social media and they get themselves so jazzed up," reporter Jim Van de Hei pressed. "There’s got to be a part of you that's like: 'Dammit, I'm scared that someone is gonna take it too far.'"
"It's my only form of fighting back," Trump told Van de Hei. "I couldn’t be here if I didn't do that.”
Van de Hei threw Trump's answer right back in his face.
"You won!" Van de Hei exclaimed. "You have the presidency!"
Watch the clip below:
EXCLUSIVE: President Trump defends his "enemy of the people" attacks on the media https://t.co/ucMwCkXvBp https://t.co/qK0CMLycnX— Axios (@Axios)1541065520.0
Social media tore into Trump for not being able to take any sort of criticism.
@axios Clearly a very weak man who can’t even rationally and intelligently defend his repulsive behavior. And that’… https://t.co/IYGnkcnVrz— Elvarstam (@Elvarstam)1541068842.0
@RawStory Oh my God @realDonaldTrump! You are your own worst defender. You should shut you mouth. When you say "It'… https://t.co/DA8NJG6puT— S.O.S. Save American Democracy! (@S.O.S. Save American Democracy!)1541075714.0
#AxiosOnHBO When #Trump says the "press is the enemy". Trump: "It's my only form of fighting back" So 45 admit… https://t.co/dRXIyfzEBs— Mrs D says Common Sense tells you...🌊🌐🍃 (@Mrs D says Common Sense tells you...🌊🌐🍃)1541074704.0
@RawStory @realDonaldTrump 'It's my only form of fighting back!' because you can't handle the truth...you traitor… https://t.co/aBV0SJofaG— DebraRose (@DebraRose)1541074084.0
@ddale8 Spoken: "It's my only form of fighting back." Unsaid: "... because I'm not smart enough to think of any oth… https://t.co/Vawmvft1Ki— ⓣⓔⓔⓥⓔⓔⓓⓤⓑ (@ⓣⓔⓔⓥⓔⓔⓓⓤⓑ)1541074033.0
Trump didn't appear to care or appreciate the weight that his rhetoric carries.
@ddale8 There is no part of him that cares.— Andrea R MD (@Andrea R MD)1541073326.0
@keith___m @ddale8 I think he just announced that inciting his followers to assassinate the journalists who point o… https://t.co/hiiQ1agygQ— ◟̽◞̽ Mama Teal Rose 🇦🇺 #Louie #OT5 (@◟̽◞̽ Mama Teal Rose 🇦🇺 #Louie #OT5)1541074582.0
@ddale8 https://t.co/U2eEUOArNm— Eichel2020 (@Eichel2020)1541073534.0
Trump's transparent lack of self-awareness is concerning.
People have actually been shot. Bombs were mailed to Trump's political adversaries.
@ddale8 People HAVE been shot. And he just admitted to doing this on purpose.— judy custer (@judy custer)1541073643.0
Anything short of direct praise is seen as an attack.
@mikeallen His mindset is all messed up: "it's my only form of fighting back". He truly lacks the ability to look a… https://t.co/Vwp698GQkv— ReiNouT (@ReiNouT)1541072207.0
@ddale8 He’s all personality disorder. Every bit of him.— David Hawley (@David Hawley)1541073356.0
@ddale8 And there, ladies & gentlemen, is a man without a soul, without a conscience, without any moral core. No co… https://t.co/xNPI4fAzGe— Olive Tree Genealogy (@Olive Tree Genealogy)1541074737.0
@ddale8 “It’s my only form of fighting back” is more than a false choice and lame cover story: It’s a psychological… https://t.co/Sh9ipD62iH— G.L. Marshall (@G.L. Marshall)1541073980.0
Trump loves attacking the press.
@axios He hates to say it so much he keeps tweeting it out over & over: "And that’s why 33 percent of the people in… https://t.co/t5erCh01AO— Daniel Morgan (@Daniel Morgan)1541065543.0
@ddale8 If that's how he fights back then he is entirely unfit to hold office. Of course most of us already know that.— Cletus Del Toro (@Cletus Del Toro)1541073696.0
Not featured in the clip above was Trump blaming the press for his hostility and complaining that the recent wave of white nationalist attacks has disrupted Republican momentum heading into the midterms.
"If they would write accurately about me, I would be the nicest president you've ever seen," Trump said. "It would be much easier. It's much easier ... for me to be nice than it is for me to be the way I have to be."
Axios's interview airs Sunday at 6:30 P.M. on HBO.