Critics of Donald Trump accused him of inciting violence after pipe bombs were sent to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, CNN and other prominent figures in the United States.
With midterm elections less than two weeks away, Trump reacted Wednesday to the rapid-fire spate of bomb alerts by first calling for unity, before reverting to attacking the media.
CNN is known for its often critical coverage of the Trump administration and has constantly provoked the ire of the president, who defeated Clinton in 2016 to succeed Obama.
From the White House, Trump first said “acts of political violence” have “no place in the United States.”
“Those engaged in the political arena must stop treating political opponents as being morally defective,” he later told a campaign rally in Wisconsin, before switching his criticism back to the media.
“The media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and stop the endless hostility and constant negative, and often times false attacks and stories,” he added. “They’ve got to stop.”
#MAGABomber trended as users flooded Twitter with accusations that Trump had incited the attempted attacks and highlighting the toxic remarks he has leveled against the pipe bomb targets in the past.
The spree began Monday with a device found at the New York home of billionaire liberal donor George Soros.
The FBI said a total of seven suspicious packages were sent in New York, Washington and Florida, including to Obama’s attorney general Eric Holder and two to Maxine Waters, a California lawmaker, one in Los Angeles and one in the Washington area.
The packages were sent in manila envelopes with bubble wrap, marked with computer-printed address labels. Each listed Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, as the sender.
A photo of the device sent to CNN showed it to be a short length of pipe wrapped in black tape, with wires sticking out of either end.
Another suspicious package addressed to former vice president Joe Biden was also intercepted, though the FBI said it could not confirm this.
Liberal and left-wing critics accuse Trump’s rhetoric-laden “Make America Great Again” presidency of emboldening right-wing extremists. He has endorsed the body-slamming of a reporter and denounces critical press.
“There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media,” said CNN president Jeff Zucker.
“Words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that.”
Top Democrat lawmakers Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer accused Trump of condoning “physical violence and dividing Americans.”
“It’s a time of deep divisions, and we have to do everything we can to bring our country together,” said Clinton, who has remained an outspoken political force despite her stunning loss to Trump in 2016.