A correspondent for Fox News Channel was harassed and chased by protesters in Washington, D.C., the latest example of TV journalists facing potential harm as they try to do their regular job of chronicling events as they happen.
Leland Vittert, a Fox News staffer who has been with the cable-news outlet since 2010, is no stranger to reporting from roiled settings. He has served as a foreign correspondent in Jerusalem and has previously reported from protest scenes. But he found himself in a dangerous situation early Saturday morning when some members of a crowd of protesters in Washington D.C.’s Lafayette Park, outside the White House, began to move toward him, chanting at him and chasing him as he and his crew and security personnel tried to leave the scene,
In footage captured by The Daily Caller, a conservative news-and-opinion site, Vittert and his crew are shown trying to leave the scene as people shout profanities at them, throw things at them and pursue them. The scene surfaced less than 24 hours after a CNN reporter and crew were detained by Minnesota State Police as they tried to cover protests in Minneapolis tied to the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who died after a police officer put a knee to his neck over the course of more than eight minutes.
Vittert called the encounter “the scariest situation I’ve been in since I got chased out of Tahrir Square by a mob, and this was equally scary.”
In a memo sent to staffers Saturday, Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott said the Fox Corp. unit was “taking all necessary security precautions to safeguard all of our journalists and reporting crews in the field who are doing phenomenal work, covering this story as it continues to develop.”
The executive said the company condemned “these actions against Fox News Media reporting teams as well as all other reporters from the media outlets who are simply trying to do their jobs and report the news during an extraordinary time in our country’s history. Yesterday, we denounced the detainment of the CNN crew in Minneapolis and stood with them to protect all journalists’ right to report without fear or favor.”
The actions in Washington drew criticism from some prominent anchors:
An unacceptable assault on Freedom of the Press. https://t.co/PHecjFUDzf
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) May 30, 2020
Deplorable behavior by some of the protesters in DC's Lafayette Park overnight: A Fox News crew was harassed, punched, and chased out of the park. Journalists must be able to report without fear. Meet speech with more speech, not fists and broken cameras. https://t.co/OZKYgAxvvB pic.twitter.com/wRaY1cjzKn
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) May 30, 2020
Prior to joining Fox News Channel, Vittert worked for a number of major-market TV stations, including KDVR in Denver and WFTY in Orlando.