A BBC camera operator was attacked at a rally held by President Donald Trump in El Paso, Texas, on Monday — one where the president repeatedly goaded his fans into booing the media.
The camera operator, identified by a colleague as Ron Skeans, was attacked by a man wearing a red Trump hat who could be heard yelling, “Fuck the media!”
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
The incident was also captured from another angle:
Here’s another angle, after the @USAFrontline reporter had already grabbed the guy.— Jacob Rascon (@KPRC2Jacob) February 12, 2019
The crowd chanted “Trump! Trump!” Then the president looked at the media pen and asked, “You all right? Everything OK?” pic.twitter.com/Xsn30MrNPD
Trump paused his speech while the assailant was escorted away. The audience responded with a smattering of “CNN sucks!” chants that eventually morphed into “Trump! Trump! Trump!”
According to the BBC, the assailant “shoved and swore at the BBC’s Ron Skeans and other news crews before being pulled away.” Skeans described a “very hard shove” coming from behind him:
Mr Skeans said the man almost knocked him and his camera over twice before he was wrestled away by a blogger.
President Trump checked they were well with a thumbs up, and continued his speech after Mr Skeans returned the gesture.
BBC Washington producer Eleanor Montague and Washington correspondent Gary O’Donoghue were sitting in front of the camera.
Ms Montague said the protester had attacked other news crews but Mr Skeans “got the brunt of it”.
A campaign official for Mr Trump afterwards suggested the attacker was drunk.
BBC editor Paul Danahar tweeted on Tuesday that in light of the incident, he’s asked the White House to review security arrangements for members of the media covering Trump’s rallies.
I’ve written to @PressSec 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.— Paul Danahar (@BBCDanahar) February 12, 2019
On Tuesday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders denounced the attack in generic terms.
.@PressSec: “President Trump 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."— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) February 12, 2019
Trump attacked the media throughout the speech
Trump’s speech on Monday was his first at a rally in 2019. He set the tone by attacking the media just seconds into it, saying, “Look at all the press back there, can you believe that? This is like the Academy Awards used to be. They’ve gone down a long way since they started hitting us a little bit, right? That was a long fall, but there they are.”
The crowd responded with loud boos.
About 10 minutes after Skeans was attacked, Trump laid into the media again while deflecting from the notion that his campaign colluded with Russia.
“There’s also collusion between the Democrats and the fake news, right here,” he said, prompting more “CNN sucks!” chants.
"Lock her up!" chants rain down after Trump accuses Hillary Clinton of colluding with Russia.— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 12, 2019
"There's also collusion between the Democrats and the fake news, right here," Trump adds, to huge boos. "CNN sucks!" chants begin. pic.twitter.com/vSFqKi18Vj
As was the case both during his presidential campaign and the recent midterm cycle, attacking the media was one of Trump’s central themes on Monday night. At one point, he called fact-checkers “some of the most dishonest people in media.” He also mockingly mimicked reporters who try to cover him.
This rhetoric has consequences
The assembled media was far from the only target of Trump’s ire during Monday’s rally. He lambasted protesters who repeatedly disrupted his speech (“They go back home to mommy”), accused Democrats who support abortion rights of wanting to “execute the baby,” smeared unauthorized immigrants as murderers, and even dissed immigrants who show up for court hearings as “the dumbest people.”
Before Trump took this stage, his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., fired up the crowd by denouncing “loser teachers” who “are trying to sell you on socialism from birth.”
.@DonaldJTrumpJr's message to young conservatives: "Keep up that fight. Bring it to your schools. You don't have to be indoctrinated by these loser teachers that are trying to sell you on socialism from birth." pic.twitter.com/IGzyK48Ilp— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 12, 2019
This incendiary rhetoric has consequences. In late October, a Trump fan sent package bombs to a number of regular targets of Trump’s verbal wrath, including CNN. Days later, another man, motivated by conspiracy theories about migrant caravans, opened fire at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11.
Trump bragged about coming up the “caravan” term during Monday night’s speech.
“How about the word ‘caravan’? Caravan. I think that was one of mine,” he said, as the crowd booed.