On Monday, Feb. 11, President Donald Trump held a rally in El Paso, Texas, to drum up support for his pending border wall demands to rally his base for the 2020 presidential election. But the rally turned ugly when a supporter expressed his disdain for the media, physically. This video of a BBC cameraman being attacked has sparked public outcry over what has become a hostile environment for journalists, particularly within Trump's orbit.
Per the video, an attendee apparently attacked BBC cameraman Ron Skeans, and the altercation was caught in a video that has been circulating around the internet in the hours since. Footage first shows the rally, and then suddenly the BBC feed goes blurry as the camera gets swung around. The video straightens out to show an unidentified man who appears to be the attacker wearing a red MAGA hat and a tan collared jacket being pulled away by another man as he yells, "f*ck the media."
The altercation felt like "a very hard shove," Skeans told the BBC, adding, "I didn't know what was going on." The outlet reported Skeans was fine.
It's not clear what prompted the attack. The BBC's Washington Correspondent Gary O'Donogue, who was working with Skeans, said in a tweet that Skeans had not been doing anything unusual. "He was doing his job filming the speech," he wrote. "Nothing more, nothing less. It was an unprovoked attack."
"The guy ran past me and it was very apparent in that moment he was about to attack someone," tweeted Washington Examiner reporter Anna Giaritelli, who was also attending the rally. In a video posted by Giaritelli, Trump can be heard asking if everyone was OK, apparently acknowledging the scuffle. Trump also gave a thumbs up to Skean, the BBC reports, which the cameraman returned to acknowledge he was fine, after which the president continued speaking.
Some present suggested that the president's rhetoric had contributed to the environment which led to the attack. "The crowd had been whipped up into a frenzy against the media by Trump and other speakers all night," fellow BBC reporter Eleanor Montague described the scene in a tweet. The White House did not respond to Elite Daily's request for comment on the situation, the president's rhetoric or as to whether Trump felt responsible in any way for the attack.
Trump has made frequent attacks and criticisms of the media, which have included violent references. Throughout his presidency, he has condemned the media as the "enemy of the people" and "fake news." To date, per Trump Twitter Archive, Trump has tweeted the phrase "Fake News" more than 350 times since taking office, a rate of about one tweet every other day.
In July 2018, CNN reporter Jim Acosta tweeted a video of attendees at a Trump rally jeering the media present to cover the event. "Just a sample of the sad scene we faced at the Trump rally in Tampa," he wrote. "I'm very worried that the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media will result in somebody getting hurt."
Monday's incident adds to a growing list of well-documented attacks on journalists following alleged high-profile incidents like the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the mass shooting at a newsroom in Maryland, and the "body-slamming" assault by Republican politician Greg Gianforte of a reporter ahead of the 2018 midterm elections (Gianforte later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault). And with the 2020 election cycle just getting underway, hopefully the El Paso rally is not indicative of how coverage will go for the next 21 months.