Ben Stein said Saturday that "I'm not surprised and I'm not disappointed" that President Donald Trump planned to skip the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner in April as tensions with the media escalate.
"I'm not surprised, because Donald Trump is a punching bag in the mainstream media," the economist and actor told Brianna Keilar on CNN. "I don't blame him for wanting to go and be a punching bag in person."
Stein, 72, was a speechwriter for former President Richard Nixon and was in the White House during Watergate.
He said he did not necessarily agree with Trump's attacks on the "dishonest" and "phony" media Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington.
"I wouldn't say all the media are the enemy," he told Keilar.
"Look, every day you pick up The New York Times. Every day, they're slamming, slamming, slamming him.
"I'm a great fan of CNN," he continued. "I watch it quite faithfully, every day.
"CNN is slamming him, slamming him, slamming him. Every day they are looking for a scandal.
"They are turning the woods upside down looking for a scandal — and they still haven't found any real scandals.
"And with all due respect, I don't blame him for being furious at them."
Stein added that Trump's "got a lot of company" with other Americans who dislike the media.
"I'm out there giving speeches all around the country, all the time. People, an awful lot of people, are not great fans of the media.
"They see the media as an unelected aristocracy who are dumping all over the mainstream of America," he said. "I think Mr. Trump has a lot of company."
Stein likened the Trump attacks to those Nixon faced.
"They are hoping to do what they did to Nixon a long time ago," he said, later acknowledging that Watergate "was not a good thing."
But "compared with his achievements, they are doing the exact same thing to Mr. Trump.
"His achievements, compared to Mr. Nixon's are nil, but they are trying to undo him basically before he gets started," Stein told Keilar. "It's just extremely unfortunate.
"The country has real problems. For them to be focusing on trying to bring down this guy before he's even gotten started is a serious mistake.”
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