New York magazine Washington correspondent Olivia Nuzzi responded angrily to criticism from former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer on Monday evening, tweeting at him: “Oh shut the f*ck up.”

Fleisher, who served under President George W. Bush, criticized Nuzzi after a Rose Garden press briefing on the coronavirus pandemic in which she asked President Donald Trump: “If an American president loses more Americans over the course of six weeks than died in the entirety of the Vietnam War, does he deserve to be re-elected?”

The “Vietnam” talking point has been repeated among mainstream media journalists for several days.

One example is a “fake news” viral photograph of President Lyndon B. Johnson, which was presented by many Trump critics as if Johnson had been expressing grief over the deaths in Vietnam. (The idea behind the comparison is to suggest Trump has shown less empathy.)

In reality, Johnson was trying to hear a tape recording made by his son-in-law, who was serving in Vietnam at the time.

Trump deflected the question: “Yes we’ve lost a lot of people, but if you look at what original projections were — 2.2 million — we’re probably heading to 60,000, 70,000 — far too many — one person is too many for this,” he said, without showing anger.

Fleischer was unimpressed, suggesting that the question had a political motive:

It’s clown questions like this that can make the briefing a waste of time. The only point of that question was to provoke. Not learn anything new. Not provide information to viewers. The point was to get under Trump’s skin. Good to see potus rose above and didn’t take the bait.

— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) April 27, 2020

In response, Nuzzi tweeted: “Oh shut the fuck up.”

Oh shut the fuck up

— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) April 27, 2020

Nuzzi had taken to social media to defend her question, and also retweeted several people who had praised her for asking the question.

If more than 50,000 Americans died over the course of a few weeks at any time in our history, it would be fair to ask the president if he deserves to be reelected. It wasn’t a gotcha question, it wasn’t designed to provoke, and I appreciate the fact that Trump took it seriously.

— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) April 27, 2020

President Trump is said to be reconsidering his daily press briefings because journalists use them to grandstand and to score political points, rather than to pursue information.

The contrast with press briefings for governors and mayors is stark: there, journalists tend to be more deferential and to ask questions aimed at eliciting information rather than assigning political fault.

Nuzzi, who has also covered Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, formerly interned for former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), then an aspiring New York City mayoral candidate.

She wrote after his campaign ended in scandal that most of Weiner’s staff had joined in the hope of gaining access to Hillary Clinton. Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, was Clinton’s closest aide.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, is available for pre-order. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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