Mr. Trump also took the opportunity to call the news media “the opposition party,” something his chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, had said in an interview with The Times.
Mr. Trump told the group:
I mean, a lot of the media is actually the opposition party. They’re so biased and really is a disgrace. Some of you are fantastic and fair, but so much of the media is opposition party and knowingly saying incorrect things. So it’s a very sad situation. But we seem to be doing well. It’s almost like, in the meantime, we won. So maybe they don’t have the influence they think, but they really are — they really have to straighten out their act. They’re very dishonest people.
At other points Mr. Trump thanked Fox News for treating him “very nice” and insinuated that CNN was “fake news.”
The group included more than a dozen people who introduced themselves briefly. They included a pastor and his wife, a former Capitol police officer, a defense employee, and an official with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, among others. Also on hand were members of Mr. Trump’s staff, including Omarosa Manigault, a contestant from his programs “The Apprentice” and “Celebrity Apprentice.” She has been named director of communications for his Office of Public Liaison.
“Omarosa is actually a very nice person,” Mr. Trump joked, prompting laughter. “Nobody knows that but I don’t want to destroy her reputation.”
Social media reactions to the president’s comments were swift, with many questioning his commitment to celebrating Black History Month.
More broadly, critics pointed out that Mr. Trump has a checkered history in the area of race relations, from his comments about the five black and Latino teenagers who were falsely accused and later exonerated of raping a white woman in Central Park in 1989, to his recent Twitter spat with Representative John Lewis, the Georgia Democrat and civil rights leader.
Last month, after Mr. Lewis called Mr. Trump an “illegitimate president,” Mr. Trump criticized the civil rights leader as being “all talk, talk, talk – no actions or results. Sad!” He later tried to defuse the angry reaction by meeting with Dr. King’s eldest son.
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