There's a Pattern Here: Documenting the Escalating Trumpist War on Journalism

[CN: This post includes descriptions of physical assaults, and links may include images, video or audio of same. There are also verbal assaults which include misogynistic language, anti-Semitic language, and anti-Black language.]

One of the problems of Trump’s America is that he and his neo-fascist followers have done their best to normalize their war on a free and open media. That makes it hard to see the pattern of escalation.

So this is a timeline of sorts. It is neither complete or comprehensive, but it is enough, I think to show that Trump, the followers he enables, and the members of the party he leads, are indeed waging a war on the free and open press, one that has gotten worse and more emboldened over time.

I have many criticisms of the way big media journalism works in the United States. I also have great respect for the many individual journalists who work their asses off to bring news to the world, often facing great danger. But regardless of my feelings about any single journalist or media outlet, I find it utterly chilling to watch as our free press is hectored, harassed, assaulted, and arrested in what is a clearly escalating pattern with one end: to enable a right wing authoritarian takeover of this nation.

I will also note that our nation has a long history of shrugging at abuse and silencing aimed at journalists from marginalized communities,and at their more privileged allies. The point of my post is not to erase that, or to say that it’s a only problem now that straight white cis men are targeted. The point is: it's all getting worse, both for those who have encountered this before, and those who have been more insulated by privilege.

We are not a fascist state yet. We are not yet living in Putin’s Russia, where the harassment and murder of journalists is all too frequent. The treatment that candidate Trump and his followers gave journalists was disgraceful. Now that he is president, he has the means to use the state against them, and has begun to do so.

Abusers escalate. Read this, and ask: what is the next escalation? I’d rather not find out.

(Video may auto-play at link.) August 8, 2015:

During Thursday's presidential debate, [Megyn] Kelly pressed Trump about misogynistic, sexist comments he made in the past, such as calling some women "fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals."

Trump slammed Kelly, saying her questions were "ridiculous" and "off-base."

"You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes," Trump told CNN's Don Lemon on Friday night. "Blood coming out of her wherever."

August 25, 2015: Trump kicks Latino journalist Jorge Ramos out of a presser after he tries to ask a question about Trump's deportation policy.

November 26, 2015: Trump is criticized for openly mocking reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has a physical disability.

February 26, 2016: Donald Trump promises to “open up libel laws” to make it easier to sue news organizations.

Feb 29, 2016:

Videos posted on Twitter earlier this afternoon show a photographer for Time magazine being violently thrown to the ground by a member of Donald Trump's security team, possibly a US Secret Service agent. [Chris]Morris, an award-winning photojournalist who has covered war zones, struggles back to his feet and is led away by several other security team members.

March 1 2016: The Daily Beast chronicles the torrent of online abuse Breitbart has been encouraging Trump followers to direct at writers and journalists who criticize Trump, including critics on both the left and right.

March 3, 2016: Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski arrested and charged with battery after physically assaulting a female reporter. Although video existed documenting the assault, the Trump campaign denied it happened and accused the victim of seeking attention.

April, 28 2016: Reporter Julia Ioffe receives torrents of anti-Semitic abuse online after her profile of Melania Trump is published in GQ.

June 3 2016: Trump security removes Politico reporter from rally.

June 13, 2016:

During a press conference, reporters asked Donald valid and routine questions about his disbursements of charitable donations to veterans’ groups—questions necessitated by his campaign’s failure to provide straightforward and consistent answers on this fundraising for months. Donald went on an extended tirade against the press, calling them “sleazy and dishonest” and sarcastically telling CNN’s senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta that he’s a “real beauty.”

At the end of his press conference, during which he unleashed a bullying jeremiad of antagonism toward the media in response to basic questions seeking accountability, Donald was asked if the exchange could fairly be seen as a preview of what it would be like covering him as president. Yes, he replied matter-of-factly. “I find the political press to be unbelievably dishonest.”

July 27, 2016: Politico documents Trump’s continuing verbal abuse of NBC reporter Katy Tur, going back as far as the fall of 2015.

[Edited to add this incident, h/t Liss]September 26, 2016: Candidate Donald Trump himself physically assaults reporter Alexi McCammond, who is a black woman:

I asked, "How would you respond to young women who are nervous about voting for you?" This question was inspired by the countless students I spoke to earlier that day who told me they were nervous about the future of women's rights if Trump were to be elected. My phone was out and already recording in anticipation of the answer Trump would hopefully give me. Instead, another reporter behind me yelled a question to him (something about what he'd say to the people of Westchester, New York). Trump then looked at me, grabbed my right wrist (which was the hand holding the phone), said, "Put that down," and pushed my hand down.

(Video may auto-play at link.) September 28 2016: Trump supporters verbally abuse CNN reporter.

October 6 2016: Trump supporters verbally abuse a reporter who is interviewing a Holocaust denier at a Trump rally.

October 7, 2016: Kurt Eichenwald writes about Trump supporter sending him a video with a strobe light on Twitter in a deliberate attempt to provoke an epileptic attack.

October 14, 2016:

The boos at the Trump rally were scattershot as the first laptop-toting reporter emerged from the black curtains covering a side entrance a few hundred feet from the spotlighted stage.

Within moments, they grew to a menacing, thunderous roar.

Donald J. Trump’s supporters have aimed their verbal ire at undocumented immigrants, Republican rivals and Hillary Clinton. This week, they have settled on a new target: the news media.

But even reporters long accustomed to the toxic fervor of Trump rallies were startled — and even frightened — at the vitriol of a Cincinnati crowd on Thursday evening as more than 15,000 supporters flashed homemade signs, flipped middle fingers and lashed out in tirades often laced with profanity as journalists made their way to a crammed, fenced-in island in the center of the floor.

October 16, 2016:

Trump’s traveling press contingent of about 20 has been met with boos, shouts and obscenities as it entered — as a single group — the venues where Trump has spoken this week. One reporter who is part of the traveling group described it as “a mob mentality,” particularly at larger rally sites.

Reporters are now concealing or removing their press credentials when leaving the pen to avoid confrontations with Trump’s supporters. The atmosphere is particularly threatening to female reporters and to female TV reporters whose faces are well known, reporters say. (“The camera draws the hate,” as one put it.) Some reporters have wondered aloud about the need for more security, or at least more barriers to separate them from the crowd as they enter and exit Trump’s events.

On Thursday, Trump said the news media was part of a “global conspiracy” working in concert with Hillary Clinton to destroy his candidacy. He kept it up Friday, denouncing reports that he had sexually assaulted women as “lies” and saying, “the corrupt media is doing everything in their power to stop this movement.”

(Video may auto-play at link.) October 24, 2016: CNN’s Sara Murray recounts the constant harassment of covering Trump.

The "dishonest media" had been one of Trump's favorite foils for a while by the time Christie endorsed him in February. That was the day someone tampered with the cables of our live truck. We struggled to take the news of the endorsement live while our cables were cut not once, but twice.

During the general election, we were at a stop in Florida when someone followed my producer to our car. When we left the event hours later, we discovered someone keyed our car on both sides

November 2, 2016: Trump supporter chants “Jew-S-A” at media pen.

November 2, 2016: Trump singles out Katy Tur for verbal abuse as a part of a continuing pattern of ridiculing her for months on the campaign trail.

November 8, 2016:

“This” is the subject of a recent exhaustive report by the Anti-Defamation League under the title, “Anti-Semitic Targeting of Journalists During the 2016 Presidential Campaign.” The study focused on the playground for this rash of hatred — Twitter, that is. Between August 2015 and July 2016, it found that 800 journalists were targeted in almost 20,000 anti-Semitic tweets. The top 10 targets got it the worst, receiving 83 percent of the Twitter-born anti-Semitism. As to the provenance of this madness, the ADL report chooses its words with precision: “There is evidence that a considerable number of the anti-Semitic tweets targeting journalists originate with people identifying themselves as Trump supporters, ‘conservatives’ or extreme right-wing elements.”

(Video may autoplay at link) November 9, 2016: One of the only black reporters on the Trump campaign trail, Candace Smith, reports:

Nearly all those who covered Trump have been booed, given the middle finger, told we are “s---.” At rallies, people have called for us to be killed, along with Hillary Clinton.

On Twitter, I’ve been called a “n-----,” a “c---” and, at times, a combination of the two. One person who claimed to be Christian — as I am — tweeted, “You are a Hillary WHORE and, thus, can NOT possible be saved by Grace. Grace wouldn’t have a whore like you.”

November 11, 2016:

Donald Trump is keeping Americans in the dark about his earliest conversations and decisions as president-elect, bucking a long-standing practice intended to ensure the public has a watchful eye on its new leader.

Trump on Thursday refused to allow journalists to travel with him to Washington for his historic first meetings with President Barack Obama and congressional leaders. The Republican’s top advisers rebuffed news organizations’ requests for a small “pool” of journalists to trail him as he attended the meetings.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a congratulatory telegram to Trump on Wednesday, Moscow spread the word. A phone call with British Prime Minster Theresa May was announced in London. The pattern was repeated for calls with leaders of Israel, Egypt, South Korea and Australia.

The White House typically releases statements on the president’s phone calls with foreign leaders, providing some details about the conversation. Past presidents-elect have had early briefings with journalists, even in confusing first hours after Election Day.

January 11: Trump refuses to take a question from CNN reporter, derides the outlet as “fake news.” Sean Spicer promises to remove journalists who are “disrespectful” to Trump.

January 21: Sean Spicer attacks media at press conference for telling the truth about the size of Trump's inaugural crowds.

January 25 :Six journalists are charged with felony rioting after covering the protests at Trump’s inauguration.

January 26:

“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while,” Mr. Bannon said in an interview on Wednesday.

“I want you to quote this,” Mr. Bannon added. “The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”

Feb 16: Trump holds rambling press conference where he defends Mike Flynn and repeatedly attacks media as “fake news,” singling out various agencies for abuse. He berates a Jewish reporter, Jake Turx,for asking about anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. He also asks a black reporter, April Ryan, to set up a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus for him.

February 19:

"They just don't want to report the truth," Trump said. He assailed journalists as "part of the problem" and "part of the corrupt system" in a continuation of the attacks the president lobbed Thursday during a fiery, wide-ranging press conference from the White House and reiterated Friday in tweet that called many news organizations, including NBC News, "the enemy of the American people."

February 25:

Appearing on MSNBC, Politico White House reporter Tara Palmeri said she was barred by an aide from a press gathering on Friday and told “You’re threatening me” when she asked why she was being excluded.

“But I think the thing that was most jarring to me was when were trying to make our way into Sean Spicer’s office, that the person who was sort of shepherding us in, said to some outlets, ‘absolutely, absolutely,’ and was cold to some others,” she continued. “When I asked can I have a statement about why this is happening, because I thought it was unusual, the word that came out of this aide’s mouth was, ‘you’re threatening me.'”

March 17: Trump supporter arrested after Eichenwald attacked by video again in December:

When the journalist Kurt Eichenwald opened an animated image sent to him on Twitter in December, the message “You deserve a seizure for your posts” appeared in capital letters along with a blinding strobe light. Mr. Eichenwald, who has epilepsy, immediately suffered a seizure.

On Friday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it had arrested John Rayne Rivello, 29, at his home in Salisbury, Md., and accused him of sending the electronic file. The agency charged Mr. Rivello with criminal cyberstalking with the intent to kill or cause bodily harm.

March 26:

An OC Weekly reporter and two photographers said Sunday that they were physically assaulted by pro-Trump demonstrators at a Make America Great Again rally in Huntington Beach and are seeking the public’s help in identifying at least one of the people responsible.

A video of the confrontation shows Sterling trying to intervene after a Trump supporter pushed and shoved Feinzimer, who was shooting pictures of Leopo being hit with an American flag, then repeatedly punched Tristan. A moment later, Sterling is pepper-sprayed and can be seen staggering around, rubbing her eyes before falling to the ground.

April 28:

He then told the crowd that “before we talk about my first 100 days, let’s rate the media’s 100 days,” before launching into an extended critique of how the media has covered him. Trump reportedly encouraged his staff not to attend, and even some of his donor supporters backed out of the dinner several days ago after initially committing to sit a media tables.

At the rally, Trump also singled out the New York Times, attacking their editorials about his first 100 days, predicting that it would go online only because of sagging readership and even criticizing the paper for moving out of its offices to a new building in a “crummy location.” (New York Times subscriptions actually increased, but ad revenue dropped last year.)

May 10: Reporter arrested for asking questions of Tom Price and Kellyanne Conway.

May 14: Trump threatens to cancel all future press conferences.

May 17: News reports indicate that Trump told James Comey to consider arresting reporters who publish leaks.

May 19:

On Thursday, veteran Washington reporter John Donnelly was pinned against a wall by two security guards at the Federal Communications Commission headquarters when he approached FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly to ask a question after a press conference. This is at least the second time a reporter has been targeted by security for asking questions at a public meeting in a public building in the U.S. in two weeks.

(Auto-play at link.) Today, May 25: Trump has “no comment” on reported body-slamming of journalist Ben Jacobs by Republican candidate Greg Gianforte in Montana. Gianforte's campaign at first claimed Jacobs had attacked him, but audio recorded at the scene contradicts that claim, as does the eyewitness account of Fox news reporters. The audio is widely publicized.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus