×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Journalists Raise Concerns About ‘Fake News’ Rhetoric After Man’s Arrest for Threats to CNN

A man was arrested for making threats on CNN employees in Atlanta, and his use of the term “fake news” has raised concerns that the derisive and hostile rhetoric aimed at the news media by President Donald Trump and others is raising safety issues for journalists in the United States.

“As the rhetoric towards the press emanating from the highest levels of government has grown more hostile, CPJ has received calls from journalists in the U.S. who say that they have received death threats,” the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement.

The man, Brandon Griesemer of Ann Arbor, Mich., is accused of making 22 calls to CNN’s Atlanta offices on Jan. 9 and 10, including four recorded threats to its employees, according to an unsealed FBI affidavit. In one call, he said, “Fake news. I’m coming to gun you all down.” He also made racial slurs against Jews and African Americans. Investigators say the man’s location was traced via the cell phone he was using.

He faces federal charges of transmitting interstate communications with the intent to extort and threat to injure. He was released on $10,000 bond on Friday. A public defender who represents him did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The CNN incident is one of the latest made on members of the media — in fact, reporters frequently talk about how routine they have become. According to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, there were 44 physical attacks on journalists in the United States in 2017, the first year of the database.

A CNN spokeswoman said, “We take any threats to CNN employees or workplaces, around the world,‎ extremely seriously. This one is no exception. We have been in touch with local and federal law enforcement throughout, and have taken all necessary measures to ensure the safety of our people.”

On Tuesday, Trump again used the term “fake news” in a tweet. He referred to “Crazy Jim Acosta of Fake News CNN.” But he has also dubbed “fake news media” as the “enemy of the American people,” and has retweeted a doctored video in which he wrestles a man to the ground whose head is labeled CNN.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, another journalism organization, said in a statement sent on Twitter on Tuesday that “journalists face verbal and physical threats every day just for doing their job: asking questions that people want answered. There are consequences to the dangerous rhetoric aimed at reporters and it only heightens the threat of violence against them.”

Elana Beiser, the editorial director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said the CNN incident was “extremely scary.” She said the organization “has long maintained that when leaders use their platforms to vilify the media, they expose journalists to unnecessary risk.”

Steve Scott, the president of the New York Press Club, also called on Trump and members of Congress “to speak out loudly and clearly condemning violence against journalists, which is never the answer to solving political or philosophical disagreements.”

Last week, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), a critic of Trump’s, gave a speech last that called out the president’s use of the term “fake news” and his attacks on the media, but his focus was on what impact the rhetoric had on leaders of other countries.

“Not only has the past year seen an American president borrow despotic language to refer to the free press, but it seems he has in turn inspired dictators and authoritarians with his own language,” Flake said.

At the White House on Tuesday, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said that “it is just not accurate that the president hasn’t spoken loudly both in words and in deeds against those who violate human rights.”

“Look at his deeds in confronting the most dictatorial regime in the world, North Korea. How could that not be a human rights issue?” He also cited Trump’s order of airstrikes after the Syria regime used chemical weapons, among other moves.

Popular on Variety

More Politics

  • Elizabeth Warren Taylor Swift

    Elizabeth Warren Backs Taylor Swift in Big Machine Battle, Slams Private Equity Firms

    Taylor Swift’s battle with Big Machine has spilled into the political arena. Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren retweeted Swift’s Thursday message about her former record label preventing her from performing her old hits at the American Music Awards, adding that Swift is “one of many whose work as been threatened by a private equity firm.” [...]

  • Adam Schiff

    Adam Schiff Slams 'That Charlatan in the White House'

    Adam Schiff was greeted as a hero at the state party convention in Long Beach on Saturday morning, as he urged California Democrats to help defeat “that charlatan in the White House.” Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, appeared at the convention after leading the opening week of impeachment hearings against President Trump. He [...]

  • Roger Stone

    Roger Stone, Trump Ally, Found Guilty of Lying to Congress, Witness Tampering

    Roger Stone was found guilty on Friday in his false statements and obstruction trial. He faces up to 20 years in prison. The political operative and long-time confidant of President Donald Trump was convicted by a federal jury in Washington, D.C., of all seven counts against him, including witness tampering and making false statements. After [...]

  • Marie Yovanovitch

    Trump Attacks Former Ukraine Ambassador During Impeachment Testimony

    President Donald Trump lashed out at the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine as she testified on Friday morning in the House impeachment hearings. Marie Yovanovitch, who was removed from her post in May, testified that foreign policy toward Ukraine had come under the sway of foreign corrupt interests. She said she felt personally threatened by [...]

  • Career Foreign Service officer George Kent,

    TV Ratings: Fox News, ABC Draw Big Impeachment Numbers

    The first day of the impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump drew over 13 million total viewers across the broadcast and news networks combined. Fox News’s coverage from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. drew the highest total viewership of any network, averaging around 2.9 million sets of eyeballs. MSNBC followed in second with 2.7 million [...]

  • Career Foreign Service officer George Kent

    Impeachment Hearings: Bill Taylor Testifies About 'Alarm' Regarding Ukraine Aid

    Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, testified on Wednesday that he became increasingly alarmed as it became clear that U.S. military aid was conditioned on launching investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and the 2016 election. Taylor and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state, were the first witnesses called to [...]

  • Patrick Whitesell and Ari Emanuel WME

    Endeavor PAC Goes Quiet as Candidates Reject Corporate Cash

    In February 2017, Hollywood was gripped by a spirit of resistance to the Trump administration. Endeavor bosses Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell pledged to do their part to fight back by organizing a political action committee. The committee, Endeavor Action, took in almost $300,000 in 2017 and 2018, and distributed about half that money to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content