The White House Correspondents' Association issued a rare public denunciation of President Trump on Friday, one day after Trump praised a congressman for "body-slamming" a reporter last year.
"All Americans should recoil from the president's praise for a violent assault on a reporter doing his Constitutionally protected job," WHCA President Olivier Knox said in a statement.
Trump told a campaign rally in Montana on Thursday that he approved of Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte's infamous "body-slam" of Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs in May 2017, which broke the reporter's glasses. The Republican lawmaker profusely apologized and pleaded guilty.
[More: Newspaper hits back at Trump over 'body slam' praise]
"This amounts to the celebration of a crime by someone sworn to uphold our laws and an attack on the First Amendment by someone who has solemnly pledged to defend it," Knox said. "We should never shrug at the president cheerleading for a violent act targeting a free and independent news media. "
On the campaign stage, Trump made light of Gianforte's assault of Jacobs.
“Never wrestle him, you understand that? Never,” Trump said. “Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of guy.”
Speaking to the congressman, he added: "There's nothing to be embarrassed about.”
Trump's remarks came as his administration struggles to address an international crisis over the suspected murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul.