British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt condemned a violent attack by a Donald Trump supporter on a BBC cameraman at an El Paso, Texas, rally on Monday. Hunt linked the violence to a troubling surge in fatal assaults against journalists, whom he praised as the “invisible line between open and closed societies.”
A man wearing a red “Make America great again” cap was captured on video attacking BBC cameraman Ron Skeans at the rally before he was pulled off the journalist. Ironically, the MAGA violence erupted at a rally where Trump talked of improving safety in the nation.
“It is never acceptable when journalists and cameramen are attacked just for doing their job,” Hunt said Tuesday on Sky News. “There is a broader issue here, which is that last year 80 journalists were killed across the world just doing their job.” (Hunt addresses the incident in the video here at 8:33.)
“We are very worried about this because freedom of the press is the invisible line between open societies and closed societies. It’s very, very important that we protect the ability of journalists to do their jobs.”
Hunt added, in an apparent reference to America: “We have to make sure that it’s not acceptable anywhere in the world for journalists to be impeded from doing what they should do, which is to tell the public exactly what’s going on and hold power to account.”
Unlike Hunt, Trump frequently slams the press as the “enemy of the people.”
Last year Trump praised Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), who body-slammed a Guardian reporter after the journalist asked Gianforte a question about health care on the eve of his election victory. “Any guy who can do a body slam, he is my type,” Trump said in a speech at a Gianforte re-election rally last fall, triggering outraged criticism. “He’s a great guy, a tough cookie,” Trump added.
At his own campaign rally in 2016, Trump encouraged supporters to attack protesters. “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you?” he said. “Just knock the hell … I promise you I will pay for the legal fees.”
Gary O’Donoghue, the Washington correspondent for the British public service broadcaster, called the attack on Skeans “incredibly violent.” He complained that the “goading of the crowds against the media” is “a constant feature” of Trump’s rallies.
Following the attack, the BBC wrote a letter to the White House demanding a “review of security arrangements” for media covering Trump’s rallies.
The White House News Photographers Association also condemned the attack. “Given that the president’s rhetoric about journalists is too often false and derogatory, we ask that he refrain from unnecessarily targeting journalists with his speech since such rhetoric may be inciting violent acts such as this one,” the association said in a statement.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Tuesday that Trump “condemns all acts of violence against any individual or group of people ― including members of the press.”