UPDATED WASHINGTON — The White House Correspondents Association is calling on President Trump to make it clear to his supporters that violence against reporters is unacceptable, after a BBC cameraman was attacked at the rally in El Paso.
Olivier Knox, the president of the WHCA, condemned the attack and said that they were “relieved that, this time, no one was seriously hurt. The president of the United States should make absolutely clear to his supporters that violence against reporters is unacceptable.”
Later, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement saying that the president “condemns all acts of violence against any individual or group of people — including members of the press. We ask that anyone attending an event do so in a peaceful and respectful manner.”
At the Trump rally on Monday night, the attacker, wearing a Make America Great Again hat, “shoved and swore” at news crews, according to the BBC, and gave a “very hard shove” to the BBC’s cameraman, Ron Skeans. The man was then restrained.
Trump interrupted his speech when he saw what was going on and said to Skeans, “You all right? Everything OK?” He gave Skeans the thumbs up and the cameraman signaled that he was OK, the BBC reported.
“The crowd had been whipped up into a frenzy against the media by Trump and other speakers all night,” wrote Eleanor Montague, BBC Washington News editor, who was with Skeans.
Just attended my first @realDonaldTrump rally where my colleague BBC cameraman Rob Skeans was attacked by a Trump supporter. The crowd had been whipped up into a frenzy against the media by Trump and other speakers all night #TrumpElPaso pic.twitter.com/Oiw8osPms3
— Eleanor Montague (@EleanorMontague) February 12, 2019
At Monday’s rally, tied to Trump’s efforts to secure funding for a border wall, the president again attacked the media, as he has done on many occasions since launching his presidential campaign. Reporters have expressed concerns that a situation will get out of hand at a rally as the president whips up his supporters resentment and anger over the way that he is covered.
Gary O’Donoghue, BBC’s Washington correspondent, who also was there, said that the man had jumped onto the media platform and tried to smash the BBC camera. He called the incident “shameful.”
Security now removed Trump crowd member who pushed and shoved my cameraman – having jumped onto the Media platform here in El Paso – pretestor tried to smash our camera – follows multiple attacks on the media by the President and previous speakers – it's shameful
— Gary O'Donoghue (@BBCBlindGazza) February 12, 2019
Trump at one point in the rally marveled at the side of the media contingent, and then compared it to coverage of the Oscars. “Wow. Look at all the press there. Can you believe that? This is like the Academy Awards used to be,” he said.
Some journalism and writers groups expressed alarm at the incident.
The group Reporters Without Borders expressed concern over the attack. “As we continue to look at what happened, we firmly denounce all physical violence against reporters for doing their jobs. This is unacceptable in the country of the First Amendment.”
Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America, said, “President Trump needs to make an unequivocal statement that journalists must be allowed to do their jobs without threat or interference, and then live by those words. Short of that he will continue to bear the blame for imperiling journalists doing the job of holding government accountable and keeping the public informed.”
Paul Danahar, BBC’s Americas bureau chief, said that he’s written to Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders asking for “a full review of security arrangements for the media after last night’s attack on our BBC cameraman at the President’s rally.”
“Access into the media area was unsupervised. No one in law enforcement intervened before, during or after the attack,” Danahar wrote on Twitter.
Sanders, however, referred questions about security to the Trump presidential campaign, which organized the rally.