May 25 – “Hatred of the media has been stoked by the president of the United States and some who support him — and the results are not surprising,” said NewsGuild-CWA President Bernie Lunzer when he learned of the assault on Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs by a candidate for Congress.
“Ben Jacobs – and all journalists who ask tough questions in search of the truth – are among the heroes of the moment,” he added. “They are acting on behalf of the American people – asking questions, reporting facts, filling in the blanks, and making connections.”
While he was still a candidate for the office, President Trump created a media pen and labeled the media “corrupt and disgusting.” Soon after his inauguration, he called journalists “enemies of the people,” Lunzer pointed out.
“Trump’s demonization of the journalists has created a dangerous climate, ripe for intimidation, arrests and violence against reporters,” the Guild president said.
What prompted the attack? Jacobs attempted to ask Greg Gianforte, a Montana candidate for Congress, if he had a response to the newly released Congressional Budget Office report on the health care bill that was approved by the House before the report was issued. The situation quickly turned ugly.
Gianforte sought to blame Jacobs for the incident, but Jacobs’ description of the events was corroborated by a team of reporters from Fox News and others who were on the scene.
“Regrettably, this was not an isolated incident,” Lunzer pointed out.
As media critic Michael Calderone wrote, “In the past three weeks, political reporters have described being arrested, pinned against a wall, slapped, and now body slammed ― all this in a nation where freedom of the press is enshrined in the Constitution.”
Just this month:
- John M. Donnelly, an award-winning reporter, was “manhandled” and “pinned to a wall” by security guards after he attempted to question an FCC Commissioner following a public hearing. Security officers forced him to leave the premises. (May 18)
- Public News Service reporter Dan Heyman was arrested for attempting to ask Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price a question about the House-passed health care bill in the West Virginia state Capitol. Price refused to criticize the arrest. (May 9)
- Alaska Dispatch News reporter Nathaniel Herz said he was slapped by State Sen. David Wasilla in the stairwell of the Capitol after he questioned the freshman legislator about a bill he proposed. (May 2)
- The New York Times reported on May 16 that former FBI Director James B. Comey told associates that Trump suggested Comey “should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information” at a private dinner in February.
“Journalists routinely face dangers to bring important news to the public, but those should never include assault by a would-be congressman or arrest for asking questions of cabinet officials,” Lunzer said.
“By his actions and words, the president has set the tone. For the sake of a free press – and the people’s right to know, that must change.”
The NewsGuild-CWA is urging all freedom loving Americans to support #PressFreedom and the #Right2Report, Lunzer added.