Journalism groups have spoken out and slammed President Donald Trump’s latest controversial comments about the US media after he appeared to endorse police violence against reporters as a “beautiful site” at a rally this week.
Organisations and journalism school leaders across the country rebuked the president over his statements made at a speech in Montana, in which he attacked MSNBC’s Ali Velshi.
The reporter was thrown aside by police in Minneapolis while covering protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd, Mr Trump explained to his crowd of supporters, saying Mr Velshi was tossed “like he was a little bag of popcorn”.
Mr Trump described the violent confrontation as “a beautiful sight”.
Charles Whitaker, dean of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications, described the president’s comments as “unconscionable” in a statement the college released on Thursday.
"They say it hurts. That is only going 52 miles per hour. A bullet goes about 2000 miles per hour." -- Trump on Ali Velshi getting shot with a rubber bullet in Minneapolis pic.twitter.com/Oo8e05QoZn— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 24, 2020
“It is unconscionable that an elected official would suggest that doing harm to journalists is acceptable in any way,” Mr Whitaker said. “Violence against journalists is not only repugnant, it endangers our democracy. We will continue to fight for freedom of the press, as enshrined in the United States Constitution.”
“And we will continue to support the important work of our faculty, alumni and students,” he added, “who labour tirelessly to maintain an informed citizenry and hold those in power to account.”
It was assumed Mr Trump was referring to Mr Velshi when he dubbed him a “CNN” reporter at the rally this week. The journalist was shot by rubber bullets fired by police officers responding to the protests in Minneapolis. As the crowd cheered and hollered, Mr Trump said the journalist was struck by “a canister of tear gas” while seemingly mocking him over the incident.
“‘I got hit! I got hit!” the president quipped.
The Writers Guild of America, East, a labour union representing thousands of media employees across the country, also released a statement condemning the president for what the group said was essentially condoning violence against journalists.
The Writers Guild president Beau Willimon said in the statement: “Yesterday, President Trump praised violence against journalists, saying it was ‘actually a beautiful sight’ when police officers and others physically attack journalists doing their jobs, observing and reporting the news.”
“It is common for Presidents and other politicians to complain about how they are covered by the press; it is not a journalist’s job to curry favor with the powerful,” the statement said. “It is far beyond the pale for a President to condone violence against journalists. The Writers Guild of America, East, which represents thousands of members working in news media, condemns all attacks on journalists – verbal and physical – including those issued by the President of the United States.”