Trump tweets about 'bad coverage' of N.Y. Times: Will he quit Twitter as president?

On the same day as an interview in which he promised to be 'very restrained' on Twitter as president, President-elect Trump took to Twitter for some early-morning invective against The New York Times. 

John Locher/AP
President-elect Donald Trump gives his acceptance speech during his election night rally on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in New York.

Less than a week after being elected president of the United States, Donald Trump took to Twitter once again for an early-morning broadside against one of the primary nemeses of his campaign: the so-called mainstream media.

In a series of tweets Sunday, Mr. Trump made claims that The New York Times was "losing thousands of subscribers because of their very poor and highly inaccurate coverage of the 'Trump phenomena,'" and that the paper had "sent a letter to their subscribers apologizing for their BAD coverage" of the Republican president-elect. "Wonder if it will change," he speculated. "Doubt it?"

The tweets, which likely referred to a mischaracterized letter sent to subscribers in which the Times's publisher and executive editor maintained that the newspaper had covered the election fairly and with "agility and creativity," came just hours before Trump's first extensive post-election interview with "60 Minutes," in which he had promised to dial back his use of the social media platform during his presidency, was set to air. 

"I'm going to be very restrained, if I use it at all, I'm going to be very restrained," he told "60 Minutes" correspondent Lesley Stahl in the pre-recorded interview.

But, the business mogul added, whether he will give Twitter up entirely remains to be seen.

"I'm not saying I love it, but it does get the word out," he said. "When you give me a bad story or when you give me an inaccurate story or when somebody other than you and another – a network, or whatever, 'cause of course, CBS would never do a thing like that right? I have a method of fighting back." 

Security-wise, President Trump would be allowed to keep up his Twitter account as long as he wasn't tweeting from an unmodified, off-the-shelf phone, one former senior National Security Agency official told NBC News. Extra security measures would be necessary, he said, because "there are things an adversary can do to a cellphone – turn on the mic, for example – that make it really dangerous for a guy in his position to carry an unmodified device." 

But for many concerned Americans, whether Trump can tweet as president and whether he should tweet as president are two very different questions. 

The "60 Minutes" interview wasn't the first time that the president-elect, who credits Twitter with helping him win the election, has addressed whether his social media habits would change while in office. When asked by ABC's Jonathan Karl in March whether he would start "Twitter wars" with "world leaders who insulted" him, Trump replied that while the platform is "a great way of communicating, as far as I'm concerned ... I'm not going to be doing it very much as president." 

"I will act in the best interests of our country," he continued. "I will act to protect our country, whether that's counter-punching or not." 

Some have expressed worry over the frequent domestic targets of Trump's Twitter rants: "mainstream media" organizations, some of which he has consistently denounced as dishonest via social media and temporarily blacklisted from press access to events, raising concerns about press freedom during a Trump presidency at a time when polls show Americans' trust in the mass media at an all-time low.

The anti-media tweets are particularly powerful, experts say, as more and more people – and especially Trump supporters – turn to social media to get their political news. 

"We are in the midst of a gradual transition to social media dominance of political communication," political scientist Kerwin Swint told Politico Magazine. "That transition has already occurred with regard to how most Americans follow politics, with the mainstream media already a major online presence." 

Regardless of whether Trump's Twitter habits carry over into his presidency, political scientists say, his heavy use of social media during his campaign set a new precedent for politicians. 

"We've never seen this before in politics," Mike Berland, a political operative who worked on Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign and is chief executive of Edelman Berland, told The New York Times last October. "This is not just a rally that happens once in a while. This is a continuous Trump rally that happens on Twitter at all hours. He fills the Twitter stadium every day." 

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