White House Correspondents’ Association Condemns Attack on BBC Cameraman at Trump’s Rally

Published on February 12, 2019 by Athena Pallas

Last night a cameraman for BBC News was physically attacked by a MAGA-hat-wearing Trump supporter at Trump’s El Paso campaign rally, an act which the White House Correspondents’ Association has condemned, calling on Trump to make it “absolutely clear to his supporters that violence against reporters is unacceptable,” according to Politico. That last part, although of course reasonable, is unlikely to happen, as Trump continues assailing the press, including at his rally last night, and repeatedly calling them “the enemy of the people”. According to Politico:

The White House Correspondents’ Association called on President Donald Trump on Tuesday to make it “absolutely clear” to his supporters that violence against journalists is “unacceptable,” following an attack on a BBC cameraman at the president’s rally the previous evening. Olivier Knox, the president of the association, said in a statement that the organization “condemns the physical attack on our colleague at the president’s rally in El Paso, Texas.”…BBC cameraman Ron Skeans felt a “very hard shove” from a man wearing a signature red “Make America Great Again” cap, according to the BBC. The man who attacked Skeans was restrained and could be heard yelling “f–k the media,” according to a video posted by Gary O’Donoghue, the network’s Washington correspondent.

The BBC has asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to review security procedures regarding the press at Trump’s rallies, as security certainly seemed to be lacking last night, allowing the offender easy access to attack cameraman Ron Skeans. According to BBC News:

The BBC has written to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders asking for a review of security arrangements for the media attending the president’s rallies following the attack…Mr Skeans said the man almost knocked him and his camera over twice before he was wrestled away by a blogger…BBC Washington producer Eleanor Montague and Washington correspondent Gary O’Donoghue were sitting in front of the camera. Ms Montague said the protester had attacked other news crews but Mr Skeans “got the brunt of it”…Ms Montague said the president had spoken of “fake news” and how the media misrepresented him in the run up to the assault. Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr O’Donoghue said it was “an incredibly violent attack”. “This is a constant feature of these rallies – a goading of the crowds against the media,” Mr O’Donoghue said, who added that he had been “spat at before”. Last August UN experts warned Mr Trump’s attacks “increase the risk of journalists being targeted with violence”, calling his rhetoric “strategic”.

What effect does Trump suppose it may have on suggestible people, people influenced by his fearmongering and hate mongering, when Trump repeatedly calls the press “the enemy of the the people”? Trump may disavow there being any connection between his hateful rhetoric and acts of violence, and it may be difficult to prove legal responsibility, but a reasonable person would make that connection and understand they have an ethical, if not legal, responsibility to avoid such incendiary rhetoric. Trump chooses not to be reasonable, however. He would not keep repeating that “enemy of the people” line if he did not feel that it worked to his advantage politically; Trump clearly seeks to undermine the credibility of the press by calling reports critical of him “fake news” and calling journalists the “enemy of the people”. And that line is of course not only incendiary, but contrary to the underpinnings of democracy, one of which is freedom of the press.

Featured image by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.