[NEW YORK] Donald Trump went on the offensive against the US media on Tuesday, slamming coverage of US$6 million he claimed to raise for veterans, branding the political press "dishonest" and one journalist "a sleaze."
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, who has a thin skin when it comes to perceived slights in the media, slammed the press for questioning his claim to have raised US$6 million on one night in Iowa in January.
The former reality TV star annihilated 16 rivals in the race to sew up the Republican nomination for the White House, and is trailing Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton by just a few percentage points in recent polls.
Last January, he skipped a Republican debate hosted by Fox News in a row over the television channel's perceived bias and instead hosted a fundraising event for veterans' charities.
Mr Trump said on Tuesday that he had raised US$5.6 million, of which every penny had been donated to veteran charities, and that he expected additional donations to tip the figure over the US$6 million mark.
But the real estate tycoon said the media coverage seemed intent on finding fault in actions he said were entirely altruistic.
"The press should be ashamed," he said. "I have never received such bad publicity for doing such a good job," Mr Trump hectored.
"I think the political press is among the most dishonest people that I have ever met," he added, before pointing to Tom Llamas, who covers the Republican race for ABC News.
"You're a sleaze because you know the facts and you know the facts well." Mr Llamas took to Twitter in response. "Trump just called me a 'sleaze.' Should be an interesting week," he wrote.
The candidate called Bill Kristol, editor of neoconservative magazine The Weekly Standard and a fierce critic of the Republican nominee "a loser." "I've won some and I've lost some, but one thing I've always tried not to be is a roaring jackass," wrote Mr Kristol on Twitter in response.
Mr Trump batted aside questions on whether he needed a thicker skin to run for the presidency.
"I think it's bothersome," he insisted. "I have given a lot of money... and I think when the press portrays it differently, the press is being very dishonest, so I don't like that."
Al Baldasaro, a retired Marine and Republican representative in New Hampshire's state house of representatives, leapt to Mr Trump's defence dressed in a suit and Trump campaign trucker hat.
"I think the liberal media, and I have been dealing with you a long time, need to get your head out of your butt, focus on the real issues," he said.