<em>Boston Globe</em>’s Indira Laskshmanan: “President Trump’s attacks on the media have paved the way” for violence against reporters
FRANK SESNO: The mistreatment of journalists got physical this week when a reporter was body-slammed by this man, Greg Gianforte, who a day later was elected by voters in Montana to the United States House of Representatives despite the attack and the misdemeanor assault charge that went with it. The reporter, Ben Jacobs may have never seen the body slam coming, but in a climate of rising hostility toward journalists in the Trump era, some feared it was just a matter of time. In fact, it’s not exactly an isolated event. Earlier this month in Alaska, a reporter says he was slapped by a state senator. In D.C., a reporter says he was pinned against the wall by security guards as he tried to question the FCC commissioner. And in West Virginia, a journalist was arrested after questioning U.S. Health Secretary Tom Price. Look, journalists can insistent, persistent, and sometimes downright obnoxious, but is the bar for open physical hostility lower now? And if so, what’s that mean? Joining me now, Erik Wemple, media reporter for The Washington Post and Indira Lakshmanan, the Newmark Chair in Journalism Ethics at the Poynter Institute, a columnist for the Boston Globe. To both of you, Indira start, what’s going on here?
INDIRA LASKSHMANAN: Well I think it’s really appalling. I mean we write about and talk about attacks on press freedom all over the world. I’ve been a foreign correspondent, spent more than 12 years overseas in countries where there are literal attacks on the press. In China, all over the place, in Venezuela. And to have to be talking and writing about this in the United States, where we actually have a First Amendment that, in our Constitution, puts in protections against — you know, attacking the press, is really disturbing to me. And I feel as if President Trump’s attacks on the media have paved the way for this. He has normalized —
SESNO: Paved the way?
LAKSHMANAN: Paved the way because he has normalized hatred of and denigration of the press, by calling us the enemy of the people.
SESNO: Are we seeing more of this? People have been frustrated with press and have thrown people out of their offices and done other things in the past. It’s not brand-new that we’re seeing some of it.
ERIK WEMPLE: It seems as though, anecdotally, that we are. What is, perhaps, even more — this is chilling and appalling. But what is maybe even more chilling and appalling is the level of support, that some of this seems to be getting. If you notice anecdotally a lot of reporters in Montana have gotten statements and sentiments from people out there saying, good job, Greg Gianforte. I support that. There were people who were murmuring when he made the apology to Ben Jacobs, the night that he was elected. Some people were saying suck it, media, and people are saying good job. And they weren’t excited, necessarily, that he was apologizing for this. Some people said apology is not necessary. So I think that sentiment is what underlies that. I think that what we see here is that President Trump didn’t necessarily reach the far extreme of the political sort of benefit that he could reap from hammering the media. So I don’t know that we’ve necessarily seen the end.