Trump’s Attacks On The Media Come Home To Roost

It was only a matter of time before Trump's rhetoric against the press would lead to something violent. Last night in El Paso, it happened.

Yesterday, the animus toward the press that has been a frequent subject of Donald Trump’s campaign rallies and tweets took a new and violent turn:

A supporter of President Trump attacked a BBC camera operator during a presidential rally in El Paso on Monday night, the broadcaster said.

“BBC cameraman Ron Skeans was violently pushed and shoved by a member of the crowd while covering a President Trump rally in Texas last night,” a BBC spokesman said in an email on Tuesday.

Mr. Trump was in El Paso to increase support for his proposed wall on the United States border with Mexico, in his most significant rally since his funding demands for the project temporarily shut down the government. The president was talking about a decline in attacks on African, Hispanic, and Asian-Americans when the cameraman was pushed.

A 36-second clip from Mr. Skeans’s camera before, during and after the shove was widely circulated on social media on Tuesday. It shows a protester in a red Make America Great Again cap, who has not been publicly identified, shouting at members of the media as he is restrained by someone who appears to be part of the event’s security team.

As the man struggles, the crowd’s chant shifts from “U.S.A.” to “Let him go.”

Gary O’Donoghue, the BBC Washington correspondent who covered the El Paso rally on Monday, said the supporter had “tried to smash” the camera before security escorted him out of the venue.

The BBC condemned the attack. “It is clearly unacceptable for any of our staff to be attacked for doing their job,” the statement on Tuesday said. The president could see what was happening and checked “that all was O.K.,” the statement added.

Since the beginning of his presidency, Mr. Trump has had a strained relationship with the news media. He has repeatedly called journalists “the enemy of the people,” and he used the term “Fake News” on Twitter at least 174 times last year alone.

In August, experts from the United Nations and a human rights body condemned the president’s attacks on the news media and warned that they could incite violence against journalists.

“His attacks are strategic, designed to undermine confidence in reporting and raise doubts about verifiable facts,” David Kaye, the United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of expression, and Edison Lanza, who holds the same position at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, said in a statement.

Here’s the video showing the moment of the attack, although at the time the camera as of course focused on the President:

And an update from the BBC’s Washington correspondent, who was in El Paso covering the rally:

While the only person truly culpable for this attack is the person who attacked the cameraman, the context in which this happened cannot be ignored, and that context has been established by the President of the United States himself. From the earliest days of his campaign, Trump used his speeches to attack the reporters who were covering the campaign and the news networks that were airing his speeches. More than once he would make the false claim that networks such as CNN had turned off their cameras and were not airing the speech even as it was being aired live on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News Channel at the same time. He often repeatedly referred to the media in general and specific reporters in derogatory ways, accused them of hating America, and encouraged the crowd to turn on the reporters and camera crews that were covering the speech. On more than one occasion, this was followed by the pro-Trump crowd shouting vile epithets and threats at individual reporters to the point that they would need to be escorted out of the venue by local law enforcement or a member of the Secret Service for their own safety. During the campaign, Trump banned reporters from two publications, The Des Moines Register and The Washington Post, from receiving press passes to cover events and speeches and then go on to accuse them of trying to censor his message to the voters because they weren’t there to cover it. On another occasion, he had Univision anchor Jorge Ramos physically removed from a press conference when he asked a question about Trump’s position on immigration. Later during the campaign, Trump suggested that the nation strengthen its libel laws in ways that would clearly violate the First Amendment. This rhetoric continued throughout Trump’s campaign right up until Election Day in 2016.

After taking office, Trump’s attacks on the media continued and took on a more sinister tone considering the fact that he was at that point President of the United States. Less than a month after taking office, for example, Trump called the news media the “enemy of the people” for the first time, a phrase he returned to several times over the past year. Over the summer, one of his close advisers suggested that the media should be criminally charged for publishing leaked information even when that information isn’t classified. During a campaign rally style speech in Arizona in August, Trump upped his rhetoric by referring to members of the media as “sick people” who “don’t like our country,” and are “trying to take away our history and our heritage.” In October, he took to Twitter to threaten NBC with unspecified government action including pulling their broadcast license notwithstanding the fact that broadcast licenses are issued to individual stations, not networks, and that the FCC has no similar licensing requirement for cable networks such as MSNBC. Most recently, the President directed his private attorneys to send a “cease and desist” letter to the author and publisher of a book critical of the Trump White House and once again brought up the possibility of strengthening the nation’s libel laws in response to the negative coverage his Administration was receiving.

To a large degree, this Trumpidian rhetoric feeds into general conservative attitudes about the media, of course. The idea of a “biased media” that either ignores or drowns out conservative ideas has been an article of faith on the right for so long that it has virtually become a required belief on the right. To some extent, of course, there were biases in the media in the days when television news was largely limited to three networks and the news cycle was dominated by those networks and by papers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. To a large extent, though, it seems obvious in retrospect that those biases were based on geography and culture much more than they were on a conscious political agenda. In any case, though, the rise of cable news and the Internet has largely done away with that media monopoly and the idea that the “media” is biased against conservatives in an era where there are multiple news outlets online and where the top-rated news channel is one that is clearly biased toward the current Administration is simply absurd. In any case, Trump took that general conservative tendency to distrust the media and ran with it, but in doing so he appears to have unleashed a monster. The President has spent three years now riling up crowds with attacks on the news media. While he is not directly responsible for what happened last night, his rhetoric certainly has not helped.

Update: The El Paso District Attorney is saying that he will not bring charges against the attacker:

The El Paso District Attorney’s office will not press charges against the belligerent Trump supporter who apparently shoved several news crews and “violently pushed” a BBC cameraman during the president’s Monday evening rally near the border.

In video captured of the incident, the screaming Trump supporter, wearing a red Make America Great Again hat, purportedly shoved BBC cameraman Ron Skeans off-balance before being restrained and removed by security, while screaming “Fuck the media.”

“We are looking into the situation and the released video of the incident but we are not pressing charges at this time,” District Attorney Jaime Esparza told The Daily Beast on Tuesday. “If there are any changes to our course of action, we will inform the public.”

This is outrageous. Hopefully, the D.A. will reconsider.

 

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Mister Bluster says:

    He has repeatedly called journalists “the enemy of the people,”

    It is the press, above all, which wages a positively fanatical and slanderous struggle, tearing down everything which can be regarded as a support of national independence, cultural elevation, and the economic independence of the nation.
    Adolph Hitler Mein Kampf

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  2. Teve says:

    You’ll be surprised to learn that Trump told a bunch more lies there too

    The El Paso County Coliseum holds about 6,500 people, but President Donald Trump told the crowd that his campaign got special permission from the El Paso Fire Department to let 10,000 inside.

    An El Paso Fire Department spokesman on Monday said the president’s claim was incorrect.

  3. Franklin says:

    While I agree with Doug’s post, including the part where he suggests the perpetrator should be charged, the coverage of this event has been way overblown. I’ve seen it referred to as an “incredibly violent” attack, so I thought somebody got curb-stomped or something. The cameraman was pushed and didn’t get hurt. No punches, no kicks. I’m just suggesting we save the word “violent” for something slightly serious.

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  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    While the only person truly culpable for this attack is the person who attacked the cameraman, the context in which this happened cannot be ignored, and that context has been established by the President of the United States himself.

    trump would be very disappointed in you for not giving him his fair share of credit, Doug.

  5. CSK says:

    Well, hey, at least Trump won’t have to foot the guy’s legal bills, as he promised to do while he was on the campaign trail encouraging his fans to beat up reporters.

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  6. KM says:

    @Franklin:
    I think that’s because it’s coming from the BBC who really aren’t expecting this kind of thing outside some warzones or massive civil unrest. To the civilized world, attacking a cameraman just doing his job – not even the reporter! – is an act of incredible violence in the political sense. The camera guy, as in the guy that says nothing, has no visible opinion and is literally just recording. It’s not an attack on a specific ideology but rather on the whole idea of recording the truth. Reporters and journalists might get expected to be roughed up or threatened for what they say /write but the camera guy?

    It’s like someone punching the wedding photographer because you don’t like the bride’s beliefs.

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  7. SenyorDave says:

    I would love to know the rationale behind the decision to not charge the perpetrator. At least a token charge seems in order, if for no other reason than to discourage this type of behavior. Of course it won’t stop Trump from his attacks on the media because that is the best raw meat for his supporters.

    In a sane world the GOP would condemn the attacks on the media, but that ship sailed a long while ago.

  8. Raymond Smith says:

    The only real way to deal with this is for ALL media outlets, except for those that Trump supports, you all know them not to provide coverage. There is nothing new to learn or hear from Trump he is nothing to see a con man that lies constantly does not deserve airtime. By following Trump the MSM is legitimizing what he is doing, thus no more coverage. He will go totally ape crazy if they stopped for he needs the attention like a 6 month old baby does when it starts crying.

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  9. Sleeping Dog says:

    If the El Paso DA won’t prosecute, let’s hope that the camera man and his employer sue the perp. Let the perp rack up legal fees and be paying them off for years.

  10. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    As an EMMY award winning (former) videographer I am disturbed by this.
    As a citizen of the Republic I am disturbed by far more that went on at that rally…which I bet taxpayers paid for.
    Dennison saying the Virginia Governor advocates for infanticide was just about the bottom of the barrel. When you think Individual-1 can’t get any worse…he proves you wrong.
    You really have to be a pathetic human being to support this piece of shit.

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  11. CSK says:

    Did you notice that “build the wall” has now transmogrified into “finish the wall”?

  12. gVOR08 says:

    @CSK: Yes. We noticed Trump has reached the point of declaring victory. Another six months of essentially no wall building and he’ll say his nonexistent wall has brought illegal immigration to historic low levels. His base, who don’t know it’s been that low for years, will eat it up with spoons.

  13. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:

    Many toddlers have imaginary friends. Trump has an imaginary wall.

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  14. An Interested Party says:

    It’s not a good sign for our country when the president seems to have more in common with foreign dictators and thugs than he does with democratically-elected leaders…

  15. Barry says:

    @Concerned Citizen: Perhaps in coherent sentences?

  16. James Pearce says:

    The El Paso District Attorney is saying that he will not bring charges against the attacker

    What would they charge him with?

  17. CSK says:

    @James Pearce:
    Assault and battery, for one thing. Pushing and shoving constitutes those.

  18. @James Pearce:

    The offense clearly falls within the definition of both assault and battery under Texas law.

  19. James Pearce says:

    @CSK: Pushing and shoving is not assault and battery.

    @Doug Mataconis: Not so clearly if the DA isn’t pressing charges though, right?

    If any criminal charges are warranted, disorderly conduct should probably be as severe as they get. And even then….Throwing dude out of the venue and letting it go is probably the best way something like that should go.

  20. An Interested Party says:

    .Throwing dude out of the venue and letting it go is probably the best way something like that should go.

    Why?

  21. CSK says:

    @James Pearce:

    Yeah, pushing and shoving are assault and battery, no matter what you you think they are. A & B are “any unlawful or unpermitted touching of another.”

  22. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve: He also lied about the need for the overflow permit.link Why am I not surprised.

  23. Mister Bluster says:

    Throwing dude out of the venue and letting it go is probably the best way something like that should go.

    How many times should this thug* be allowed to commit assault at a political rally before he is arrested?

    *AKA one of Trump’s good people.

  24. James Pearce says:

    @An Interested Party: Because this is America, and when the law and order crowd start wanting to throw people in jail over some booolshit, it’s not “the Trumpkins” that go.

    @CSK:

    Yeah, pushing and shoving are assault and battery, no matter what you you think they are.

    The prosecutors who would have to argue that in court didn’t think so.

  25. Matt says:

    @James Pearce:

    The prosecutors who would have to argue that in court didn’t think so.

    I live in Texas and I’ve seen first hand IN court a person being found guilty of A n B via pushing.

    There are a few reasons why the DA might decline to charge.

    Here’s a case of someone shooting someone in front of witnesses AND the DA declining to charge the shooter.
    https://www.centralmaine.com/2019/01/18/district-attorney-declines-to-prosecute-shooter-in-newport-case/

    You can find thousands of theses with google.

  26. James Pearce says:

    @Matt:

    I live in Texas and I’ve seen first hand IN court a person being found guilty of A n B via pushing.

    Was the defendant poor or a minority by chance?

  27. An Interested Party says:

    Because this is America, and when the law and order crowd start wanting to throw people in jail over some booolshit, it’s not “the Trumpkins” that go.

    Ohhhhh…so because so many people who are poor and/or people of color go to jail on bullshit charges, we should excuse the violent behavior of some Trump cultist…that just makes so much sense…

  28. James Pearce says:

    @An Interested Party:

    we should excuse the violent behavior of some Trump cultist

    He knocked a camera over. You don’t have to “excuse it.”

    Just don’t put the guy in jail for it. Christ, what’s so hard about that?

  29. An Interested Party says:

    He knocked a camera over.

    I suppose something else in the air pushed and shoved the cameraman…

  30. Matt says:

    @James Pearce: In Texas if you go on to someone’s yard at night and push their camera over it’s considered at least criminal mischief and the land owner can shoot to kill you.

    Excluding the whole bit that the reason the camera was pushed over is because the person holding it was assaulted…… The camera is still worth thousands and isn’t some dinky toy.