Donald Trump used his first presidential appearance before the nation's largest gathering of conservative activists on Friday to sharply escalate his criticisms of the news media and take direct aim at the use of anonymous sources. Reporters "shouldn't be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody's name," he declared, just hours after members of his own staff held a press briefing and refused to allow their names to be used.
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"A source says that Donald Trump is a horrible, horrible human being, let them say it to my face," Trump told the Conservative Political Action Committee. "Let there be no more sources."
Members of Trump's White House team regularly demand anonymity when talking to reporters. Trump said he wasn't against all the press, just "the fake news media or press."
"I'm against the people that make up stories and make up sources," he said. "They shouldn't be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody's name."
It was a triumphal return to CPAC for Trump, warmly welcomed by a crowd that gave him a more wary reception on his first appearance.
Six years ago he stepped to the stage as the "money, money, money, money" chorus of his reality TV show theme song blared. The crowd was less than adoring, occasionally laughing and booing the former Democrat.
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Although Trump returned in ensuing years, he was notably absent last year. American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp said the presidential candidates were asked to participate in a question-and-answer session, but Trump had wanted to make a speech.
He did show up in 2015, however, a few months before he announced his candidacy.
"I am really inclined. I want to do it so badly," Trump said about the likelihood he'd run.
Now, CPAC is largely the Trump show — "TPAC," White House counselor Kellyanne Conway called it.
Schlapp said Trump will be the first president to address the group during his first year in office since Ronald Reagan in 1981. He called that a "huge sign of respect."
In his first appearance, Trump tried to burnish his conservative credentials with assertions that he is prolife and anti-gun control, while heaping praise on himself and his business acumen.
And he appeared to test-drive the "make America great again" phrase that would become his 2016 presidential campaign slogan. "Our country will be great again," he said. He trademarked that phrase in 2012, just after Mitt Romney lost to Obama.
He told the skeptical crowd: "I have a reputation for telling it like it is. I'm known for my candor."
An angry audience member shouted: "You have zero chance of getting elected."
Associated Press writer Andrew Taylor contributed to this report. __
By Julie Bykowicz