RTDNA and its Voice of the First Amendment Task Force condemn recent comments by President Trump that belittle and glorify violence targeting journalists.
At least twice during the past week, President Trump has told campaign rally-goers that it was “a beautiful sight” to see a journalist hit by a police rubber bullet while covering a George Floyd-related protest in Minneapolis last spring.
The president also referred to another journalist covering an unnamed protest, saying police had thrown “him aside like he was a little bag of popcorn.”
“President Trump, and in 2016 candidate Trump, has done his best to make vilifying journalists a cottage industry for those who don’t like, or don’t understand, the role of journalists in the United States’ constitutional republic. But now, he has escalated his anti-responsible journalism rhetoric to a new, dangerous level,” said Dan Shelley, RTDNA Executive Director.
The president’s glorification of violence against journalists comes at a perilous time for those who strive to serve the public by seeking and reporting the truth.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, the archive of record for threats to press freedom in our country – RTDNA is a founding partner – has received more than 825 reports of aggressions against journalists, the overwhelming majority of them at the hands of police during protests and riots following the May 25 death of Floyd. So far, the tracker has confirmed more than 650 of those reports.
This month, RTDNA’s Voice of the First Amendment Task Force helped convince Amazon.com, eBay.com, Etsy.com and other, smaller, e-commerce platforms to stop selling T-shirts that read, “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required.” The shirts, which openly advocate the lynching of journalists, began to reemerge online recently after RTDNA compelled the nation’s top retailer, Walmart, to stop selling them on its website in late 2017.
“This is an extreme time for all Americans, including journalists,” said Shelley. “Everyone in public life, regardless of political party or ideology, must work hard not to provoke the worst impulses of those who might cause harm -- against anyone, including journalists.”
The goals of the RTDNA Voice of the First Amendment Task Force include not only reacting to threats to First Amendment Freedoms, but proactively supporting journalists and educating the public about the importance of a free press to our democracy. The task force is a collaborative effort with broadcast and digital journalism companies, like-minded media associations and others to provide a vigorous defense for the First Amendment, news media access and to combat the growing vitriol toward journalism in the current divisive political and ideological environment.