President Trump received a raucous reception at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference Friday, thanking the “power of the people” for electing him and slamming the “fake news” media for much of his address.
“Now you finally have a president, finally!” Mr. Trump told the cheering crowd at National Harbor. “It took you a long time. And it’s patriots like you that made it happen. The media didn’t think we would win.”
Mr. Trump, who skipped the event last year, said he and conservatives need to define the meaning of “this great, great unprecedented movement” that propelled him into office.
It means America “will put its own citizens first,” the president said to cheers, a standing ovation and chants of “USA.”
The president spent a good portion of his speech criticizing the media, a consistent theme early in his presidency.
“We are fighting the fake news. It’s fake, phony, fake,” Mr. Trump said. “They are the enemy of the people. They have no sources, they just make them up when there are none. They’re very dishonest people.”
He said journalists should be required to stop using anonymous sources.
“I’m against the people who make up stories and make up sources,” he said. “They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name. Let their name be put out there. ‘A source says Donald Trump is a horrible human being.’ Let them say it to my face.”
He said the First Amendment “gives you the right and me the right to criticize fake news and criticize it strongly.”
“It doesn’t represent the people and it never will represent the people,” he said of what he considers fake news organizations, while calling some other media “honorable.”
The president’s appearance gave the annual conservatives’ conference its first Republican president in eight years, and the end of that political drought showed in the enthusiastic reception for Mr. Trump.
Many in the crowd wore “Make America Great Again” caps, and the audience gave the president several standing ovations.
Some people attending the speech could be seen waving small Russian flags emblazoned with the word “Trump.” The flags were apparently a prank; CPAC staff collected them.
Mr. Trump recited his efforts to keep his campaign pledges, saying he is working to repeal Obamacare, build the Keystone and Dakota Access oil pipelines, cut business regulations, build a wall along the Mexican border, cut taxes, bring back manufacturing jobs and crack down on illegal immigration.
“I’m here fighting for you and I will continue to fight for you,” Mr. Trump said. “It’s time for all Americans to get off of welfare and get back to work. You’re going to love it.”
He said he is preparing “a massive budget request for our beloved military.”
“Nobody’s going to mess with us, folks, nobody,” he said. “It will be one of the greatest military buildups in American history. Nobody will dare question our military might again. We believe in peace through strength, and that’s what we will have.”
Several times during his address, Mr. Trump referenced his populist political movement as an effort to reshape the Republican Party.
“The GOP will be from now on the party of the American worker,” he said. “We will not answer to donors or lobbyists or special interests.”
He pledged to work for “forgotten” Americans, and reminded the crowd that Democrat Hillary Clinton had referred to some of them as “deplorables” during the campaign.
“Hillary called them deplorable,” Mr. Trump said as chants of “lock her up” echoed in the room. “They’re not deplorable.”
Then the president added as an aside, “Who would have thought that a word was going to play so badly? That’s the problem with politics. One wrong word and it’s over.”
As he mentioned his to-do list, including cutting spending and rebuilding inner cities, Mr. Trump interjected, “And by the way, we will protect our Second Amendment.”
As the crowd came to its feet again, the president noted, “Wayne [LaPierre] and Chris [Cox] are here from the NRA. They [his speechwriters] didn’t have it [the Second Amendment] on the list. It’s lucky I thought about it.”
Mr. Trump was introduced by American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp and his wife, Mercedes. The president thanked the couple as “fantastic friends and supporters.”
“When Matt called and asked, I said, ‘Absolutely I’ll be there with you,’” Mr. Trump said. “I wouldn’t miss a chance to talk to my friends.”
Gesturing to the crowd, the president said, “These are my friends. I love you people. We’ll see you again next year and the year after that. I’ll be doing this for CPAC whenever I can.”
The moment seemed highly unlikely only one year ago, when Mr. Trump as a candidate skipped the CPAC event and was taunted by rival Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas for being afraid of conservatives.
“I would have come last year, but I was worried I’d be, at the time, too controversial,” Mr. Trump said. “And people considered that controversial, but you didn’t consider that controversial.”
Now, Mr. Trump said, his movement is “the future of the Republican Party.”