NEW YORK — Donald Trump was met with a rousing round of applause when he exited the elevators Wednesday at Trump Tower for his first press conference in 167 days.
But that enthusiastic greeting came from supporters and members of his own staff, not the estimated hundreds of reporters who gathered to ask him questions.
Trump’s family waited in the wings of the stage to his right, while senior advisers including Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer and Steve Mnuchin stood to the left, out of view of the cameras. A small, vocal group clustered near Trump’s family by the elevators acted as cheerleaders for the President-elect for the duration of the hour-long event, laughing heartily at his jokes and responding aloud to his rhetorical questions.
When Trump asked if Russian president Vladimir Putin would have found Hillary Clinton to be a greater adversary, a few of his staffers called out “no!”
His mention of his longtime secretary, Rhona Graff, while he recalled how he set up his own test to smoke out any leakers on his staff after a meeting with U.S. intelligence officials was also met with a knowing chuckle.
This chorus of affirmation made a jarring contrast to the adversarial tone of the press conference itself. Trump refused to take questions from a reporter from CNN, which he branded “fake news,” and from BuzzFeed, which he called a “failing pile of garbage.”
CNN on Tuesday published a report that U.S. intelligence officials presented both Trump and President Barack Obama with a two-page document summarizing allegations that Russian operatives had “compromising personal and financial information” about the President-elect, while BuzzFeed published the 35-page dossier from which the news site said those allegations were drawn.
Most notably, applause broke out in Trump’s cheering section when he shut down the repeated efforts of CNN’s Jim Acosta to get a question in and admonished him not to be “rude.”
“No, I’m not going to give you a question,” Trump told Acosta. “I am not going to give you a question. You are fake news.”
“Mr. President-elect that is not appropriate,” Acosta interjected.
As other reporters stood up to get the President-elect’s attention, a few in Trump’s circle whooped and others clapped enthusiastically.
Because Trump’s staffers and supporters were blocked by a line of reporters crowded into the packed room, it was difficult to differentiate them from members of the press. That prompted some observers on Twitter to believe that it was the assembled journalists applauding:
Is this members of press laughing at Trump’s egomaniacal punch lines? Name and shame if so.
— Clara Jeffery (@ClaraJeffery) January 11, 2017
Don’t clap, reporters, DO YOUR FREAKING JOB AND ASK QUESTIONS.
— Lora Dow (@loradow) January 11, 2017
This post has been updated.