WASHINGTON — President Trump on Wednesday angrily denied a New York Times article that said he privately discussed fortifying barriers along the Mexican border with a reptile-filled moat to deter illegal border crossings.
“Now the press is trying to sell the fact that I wanted a Moat stuffed with alligators and snakes, with an electrified fence and sharp spikes on top, at our Southern Border,” Mr. Trump posted on Twitter. “I may be tough on Border Security, but not that tough. The press has gone Crazy. Fake News!”
Mr. Trump amplified his complaints during an Oval Office appearance with President Sauli Niinisto of Finland. But he attributed the article to reporters from The Washington Post rather than The Times. “It’s written by Washington Post people, so you know it’s inaccurate,” he said. “You know it’s probably a fraud.”
Taking aim at the owner of the The Post, the Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, Mr. Trump said that Mr. Bezos “ought to be ashamed of himself because what they do to his reputation — I think maybe it’s probably no good anyway, but what they do to his reputation with The Washington Post is a disgrace.”
The article, which appeared in Wednesday’s newspaper, was written by the Times reporters Michael D. Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, and excerpted from their forthcoming book, “Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration,” to be published on Tuesday by Simon & Schuster. The Washington Post had no role in either the article or the book.
“The article, an adaptation from Julie Davis and Michael Shear’s forthcoming book, was based on interviews with more than a dozen White House and Trump administration officials,” Eileen Murphy, a Times spokeswoman, said in a statement. “We are confident in the accuracy of the reporting.”
The Times article also reported that Mr. Trump “wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh.” But the president singled out for scorn the idea that “I wanted sharp spikes at the top” of border fencing, so that “it goes piercing through their skin.”
“Never said it,” he added. “Never thought of it.”
But two weeks ago, in a visit to the border in San Diego, Mr. Trump was asked whether he wanted his barrier to “have the spikes at the top.” “I do,” he responded.
In December, the president also tweeted an illustrated image of a proposed barrier that included a close-up insert showing it topped with spear-shaped spikes.
Mr. Trump similarly rejected the idea that he had expressed a desire that the barrier be electrified — or “electrocuted,” as he put it.