BY JONATHAN EASLEY – 02/18/17 06:27 PM EST
MELBOURNE, Fla. – President Trump took his feud with the press to his first major campaign rally in a steamy airplane hangar outside of Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, vowing to achieve his legislative agenda despite the “lies, misrepresentations and false stories” thrown at him by the media.
“I want to speak to you without the filter of the fake news,” Trump said to huge cheers. “The dishonest media, which has published one false story after another with no sources, even though they pretend they have them – they make them up in many cases. They just don’t want to report the truth.”
“Many of our greatest presidents fought with the media and called them out,” Trump said, mentioning Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln.
“When the media lies to people, I will never, ever, let them get away with it. I will do whatever I can that they don’t get away with it,” he said. “They have their own agenda and their agenda is not your agenda.”
“But despite all their lies, misrepresentations and false stories they could not defeat us in the primaries or general election and we’ll continue to expose them as what they are and most importantly we’ll continue to win, win, win,” said Trump, who spoke without his signature tie at the rally.
The attacks were red meat for Trump’s supporters, who gathered by the thousands in the heat of an airport hangar to see him. The Melbourne Police said on Twitter that 9,000 people attended the event.
“Do you think that one media group back there, that one network will show this crowd? Not one, not one,” declared Trump, who held an identical campaign event at the airport during the general election in September.
The hangar opened up so that Air Force One could pull up and allow Trump to walk directly on the stage in dramatic fashion. First lady Melania introduced her husband after reading a prayer at the rally.
“Life is a campaign,” Trump told reporters before disembarking Air Force One. “Making our country great again is a campaign. For me, it’s a campaign. To make America great again is absolutely a campaign. It’s not easy, especially when we’re also fighting the press.”
The return to the campaign comes as Trump looks to recover from a rough-and-tumble week that was perhaps the most chaotic yet for his young administration.
Trump this week fired his national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting a discussion he had with a Russian diplomat during the campaign. Trump’s pick for Labor secretary, Andy Puzder, withdrew under fire from Democrats and concerns among some Republican senators.
But Trump on Saturday appeared to be having a great time running through how he was fulfilling all of his campaign promises on trade, building a border wall, repairing the nation’s inner cities and wiping out terrorism.
Trump ripped a federal appeals court for last week refusing to reinstate his travel ban on several majority-Muslim nations, calling the decision “sad.” Trump signaled he would move forward with plans on new executive order, which Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Saturday would be “more streamlined.”
“We don’t give up,” Trump said. “We never give up. We will do something next week. I think you’ll be impressed.”
The president also repeated past criticism of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, hours after Vice President Pence reaffirmed the United States’ “unwavering” commitment to the longstanding military alliance during a speech at a global security conference in Munich.
“We’re fighting battles that no longer help us,” Trump said. “We’re fighting battles that other people aren’t treating us fairly in the fight. I’m a NATO fan, but many of the countries in NATO, many of the countries that we protect, many of these countries are very rich countries. They’re not paying their bills.”
Trump loves appearing before large and adoring crowds of supporters. Massive rallies were a hallmark of his long-shot presidential campaign and are a way for him to speak to his supporters directly and circumvent the media, as he said.
Liberals are fuming over what they see as a never-ending campaign and are looking to highlight the high cost of security for Trump and his aides as they travel between Washington, D.C., and his resort in Mar-a-Lago, which he has called the “winter” or “southern” White House.
This is the third consecutive weekend Trump has gone down to Mar-a-Lago. On Saturday, he made the 20-minute flight from the resort in Palm Beach to Melbourne aboard Air Force One.
Trump spoke to reporters on Air Force One before taking the stage, saying that his rally would be about “unity.”
“With a small exception,” Trump acknowledged.
The president then hit the stage to continue lashing the press, who he has battered over Twitter and at a 77-minute long press conference this week.
– Nikita Vladimirov and Max Greenwood contributed
Updated: 7:45 p.m.