The mass shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, that has claimed the lives of at least five people came at a moment when tensions around politics, policy, rhetoric, and the media were already sky high.
It didn’t take long for an already tense news cycle — a week that’s included a debate over immigration, protests of Trump Administration officials, divisive Supreme Court rulings, and a Supreme Court justice stepping down — to erupt around the shooting, too.
On his daily radio show, Fox News host Sean Hannity appeared to blame the shooting — for which no motive has been given — on Rep. Maxine Waters and President Barack Obama. Hannity implied comments they made had caused “something horrible” to happen:
You know, as I’ve always said, I mean honestly — I’ve been saying now for days that something horrible was going to happen because of the rhetoric. Really [Rep.] Maxine [Waters]? You want people to create — “call your friends, get in their faces,” and Obama said that too. “Get in their faces, call them out, call your friends, get protesters, follow them into restaurants and shopping malls,” and wherever else she said.
There’s absolutely no evidence that Waters’s remarks contributed in any way to the shooting. The shooter is in custody, but police have no information about his motive.
Meanwhile, a Fox News anchor repeatedly asked Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin about the newspaper’s ideological bent, saying, “I don’t notice any rabid editorials or polarizing coverage” that would offer a potential motive for the shooting — a line of questioning many on Twitter found odd because it seemed to suggest that “rabid editorials” might provide a motive for a mass killing.
This is an odd take from Fox News about the Capital Gazette shooting, focusing repeatedly on the paper's coverage— Salvador Hernandez (@SalHernandez) June 28, 2018
"I don't notice any rabid editorials or polarizing coverage" pic.twitter.com/Xh3tZmtNw3
Fox News's Trace Gallagher says they checked into Capital Gazette's ideological bent and concluded that it was very much a local newspaper.— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) June 28, 2018
Meanwhile, some on the far right, including on a Reddit board aimed at Trump supporters, appeared to celebrate the shooting — suggesting that journalists deserved their deaths.
The alt-right has been rooting for violence against journalists for years. Now that blood has been spilled in Annapolis, these guys could't happier. pic.twitter.com/2Fo2f4MJr3— Michael Edison Hayden (@MichaelEHayden) June 28, 2018
Top two comments in r/The_donald's post on the Annapolis shooting.— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) June 28, 2018
"Here we go! Right on time!"
"so it begins" pic.twitter.com/MrfZuZqSQm
We don’t know (and might never know) the shooter’s motivation. But tensions around the media are running high. President Donald Trump, who condemned the shooting on Twitter, has called the news media “enemy of the people.” A man was arrested in January for making threats against CNN.
Earlier this week, a conservative provocateur and former Breitbart employee texted reporters at the Observer and the Daily Beast, “I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight.” When reached for comment today, he posted on Facebook on Thursday that he “wasn’t being serious” with those comments.
Concerns that violence might be aimed at other news outlets led to the NYPD sending officers to a number of media outlets in New York as a precaution:
BREAKING: Fox News reports: NYPD is moving personnel to headquarters of all the major media outlets in NYC out of an abundance of caution— Evan Rosenfeld (@Evan_Rosenfeld) June 28, 2018
Right now: 4 NYPD officers stationed outside @nytimes headquarters as a precaution after newsroom shooting in Maryland #nbc4ny pic.twitter.com/j2a9M9w7zk— Michael George (@mgeorge4NY) June 28, 2018