Donald Trump claimed on Thursday that his administration is 'running like a fine-tuned machine, despite the fact that I cannot get my cabinet approved.'
He ignored a week which saw him fire his national security adviser for lying to the vice president, and a mounting tide of leaks from inside his White House and his intelligence agencies – instead turning on the media.
The president complained that the national press corps, his most reliable long-time political sparring partner, continues to portray his work unfairly, suggesting that dishonest reporters are responsible for the lack of credit he gets from the public.
He jabbed and jabbed over what he has called 'fake news' reports, ultimately announcing a change of vocabulary. 'I'm changing it from "fake news," though. "Very fake news",' he quipped.
'I turn on the TV, open the newspapers – and I see stories of chaos, chaos,' Trump complained in his first solo press conference since taking over the Oval Office.
'Yet it is the exact opposite.'
'Much of the media in Washington, D.C., along with New York and Los Angeles speaks not for the people, but for the special interests,' he claimed, renewing a campaign theme that at one time drew thousands in sports arenas to yell 'CNN sucks!' at the top of their lungs.
Lying media: Trump used the bully pulpit to launch attack after attack against the White House press corps
CNN (AND THE BBC!) IN THE PRESIDENT'S CROSSHAIRS
He took direct aim at the cable news network, saying both that he watches it and can no longer stomach its bias.
'I mean, I watch CNN. It's so much anger and hatred, and just – the hatred!' Trump said. 'I mean, I don't watch it anymore.'
'You have a lower approval rating than Congress,' he said, shooting eye-daggers at CNN correspondent Jim Acosta. 'I think that's right.'
Acosta tried to smooth out the lumps, as Trump has famously described his late father's approach to conflict mediation, insisting: 'We don't hate you. Just passing that along.'
Trump's response was to wonder aloud if he should grant the journalist a second question since 'your ratings aren't as good as some of the other people waiting.'
The president took the unusual step of singling out a specific cable news anchor for ridicule, saying late-night CNN host Don Lemon is always on the attack.
'You just take a look at that show. That is a constant hit. The panel is always almost exclusive anti-Trump,' he said.
'The good news is he doesn't have good ratings.'
Confrontation: Trump went head-to-head with Jim Acosta, CNN's White House correspondent - rebranding his 'fake news' insult to 'VERY fake news'
Under attack: Reporters were the focus of the president's anger as he used the East Room to launch salvo after salvo at the media
'I know when you're telling the truth and when you're not,' the president scolded.
'The tone is such hatred. I'm really not a bad person, by the way.'
Late in the press conference the president called on a TV journalist with a British accent.
'Where are you from?' he asked.
'BBC,' came the reply. The man was BBC North America editor Jon Sopel.
'Here's another beauty,' an exasperated Trump complained.
'It's a good line,' the jovial Sopel played along. 'Impartial, free and fair.'
'Yeah, sure. Just like CNN, right?' the president asked him.
TRUMP SAYS HE 'INHERITED A MESS' FROM OBAMA
The president claimed Thursday that he came into office amid a world crumbling at its foundations and with the threat of a disintegrating economy handing over his head – and gets little credit from reporters for taking action.
'As you know, our administration inherited many problems across government and across the economy. To be honest, I inherited a mess. It is a mess, at home and abroad, a mess,' Trump said.
'Jobs are pouring out of the country ... mass instability overseas, no matter where you look. The Middle East, a disaster. North Korea!'
'ISIS has spread like cancer. Another mess I inherited,' he said.
'We will take care of it, folks. We're going to take care of it all. I just want to let you know, I inherited a mess.'
Trump dropped one passive-aggressive slap into his routine, saying that his anti-terror policies have benefited journalists as much as any other subset of Americans.
'We have taken decisive action to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of our country ... working night and day to keep you safe – including reporters safe.'
TRUMP SAYS REPORTERS LIMIT HIS EFFECTIVENESS
Trump's chief practical complaint – that the smooth running of his administrative gears has gone unnoticed – took the form of a lament that his chief of staff has been forced to focus on crisis communications instead of issues management.
Deposed liar: Mike Flynn, the national security adviser who Trump fired this week was axed because he lied to Mike Pence, the vice-president
Accusation: 'Some of the media is fantastic, I have to say. They are honest and fantastic. Much of it is not,' Trump said
'You take a look at Reince. He's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires! I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame. Because he'd rather be working on healthcare. He'd rather be working on taxes.
And he said his diplomatic approaches to foreign leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin have been hampered by unfair press coverage that rockets around the world on the Internet at the speed of electrons.
'I love to negotiate things. I do it really well. ... But I want to just tell you: The false reporting by the media – by you people, the false, horrible, fake reporting – makes it harder to make a deal with Russia,' he said.
'The press honestly is out of control,' he exclaimed at one point. 'The level of dishonesty is out of control.'
Meet the press secretary: Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, was watching as his boss attacked the media
INTELLIGENCE LEAKS AND RUSSIA IN THE 'DISHONEST' PRESS
The president bashed reporters, lined up in rows before him like schoolchildren, for turning intelligence leaks into false stories, citing recent examples in The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
'The leaks are absolutely real,' he said. 'The news is fake because – so much of the news is fake.'
Trump cited 'classified information that was given illegally' to reporters, material that linked his outgoing national security advisor Gen. Michael Flynn with phone calls to the Russian ambassador before Trump became president.
'Russia is fake news,' he proclaimed. 'Russia – this is fake news put out by the media.'
Trump blamed the mini-scandal on 'people, probably from the Obama administration,' who he presumes were behind dispensing classified information about Flynn's phone calls to hungry reporters.
Trump himself defended Flynn on Thursday but suggested that the story's media footprint was far out of proportion with its real-world meaning.
Talk of Flynn's Russia ties, he said, 'was all a fake-news fabricated deal to try and make up for the loss of the Democrats, and the press plays right into it.'
Trump expressed relief at seeing a course-correction in the news, as reporters dig more deeply into where the leaks came from.
'The nice thing is, I see it starting to turn, when people are starting to look at ... the illegal, giving out classified information,' he said.
The president is caught in the noose of power – too substantial and juicy a meal for the media to ignore, and too thin-skinned a target to let bygones be bygones.
He said Thursday that while he holds 'good' reporters in high esteem, the 'bad' ones get in the way.
'I hope we can correct it, because there's nobody I have more respect for – well, maybe a little – than reporters, than good reporters,' Trump added. 'It's very important to me, especially in this position.'