This is America? Anti-Press Rhetoric Trickles Down From President to Self-Radicalized Right-Wing Terrorists

This week was a rough one for the free press, who faced threats from domestic terrorists, disgruntled plaintiffs, and, of course, the President himself.  

Following an investigative report that was published Tuesday in The New York Times, President Trump singled out the publication as “a true ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!” He falsely accused the publication of completely fabricating stories about his administration and denied that anyone had reached out to the White House to verify their story. Trump had tweeted out anti-press rhetoric a few days prior too, describing several mainstream media outlet (aka the “FAKE NEWS media”) as the enemy of the American People.

The President also chimed in on reports that the parents of Nicholas Sandmann were filing a lawsuit against the Washington Post for politically motivated defamation against their son, whom they claim was “targeted and bullied” by the mainstream media and social media mobs; they accused the Post, specifically, of wanting “to advance its well-known and easily documented, biased agenda against President Donald J. Trump by impugning individuals perceived to be supporters of the President.” Winning the case would be a long-shot, but Trump tweeted his support on Wednesday morning: “Go get them Nick. Fake News!”

Domestic Terrorists Also See Press as Enemy of the People

Trump has consistently leveled this type of anger, blame, and rhetoric against the press from his social media pulpit since taking office, but it’s becoming clear that the consequences go beyond eroding the public’s trust in journalism. The Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger was direct in his response to Trump’s tweet, characterizing his criticism of the free press as un-American and unlike that of any former President of the United States. Sulzberger warned that the current President’s stance was exposing journalists to danger and intimidation. “As I have repeatedly told President Trump face to face, there are mounting signs that this incendiary rhetoric is encouraging threats and violence against journalists at home and abroad.”

Domestic right-wing and white nationalist terrorists have readily been adopting the same language and ideas as their President. Last fall, it was Cesar Sayoc, who mailed out pipe bombs to Democratic leaders and “liberal” TV journalists. This week, it was former Coast Guard lieutenant Christopher Paul Hasson, who had written extensively about his extreme, white nationalist views. Law enforcement agents found documents in which Hasson wrote that the “[liberalist/globalist] ideology is destroying tradition peoples esp white. No way to counteract without violence.” His goal, ultimately, was to target “influential media personalities – multiculturalist politicians, journalists/editors, cultural marxist professors, Marxist writers/artists, NGO leaders, global investors.”

Hasson had amassed dozens of weapons that he planned to use in a self-led assassination operation to kill news anchors from MSNBC and CNN, as well as a list of Democratic congresspeople — several of whom are running for the Democratic ticket — and judges. He spent time online trying to ascertain whether these targets were protected by secret service agents, writing that he preferred to take down lower-level easy targets rather than higher-profile, difficult targets. Based on these findings, the U.S. District Court in Maryland unequivocally described him as a “domestic terrorist bent on committing acts dangerous to human life that are intended to affect government conduct.”

The President has had plenty of time to denounce the press this week, but has not yet had a moment, at the very least, to praise law enforcement agents for thwarting a seriously motivated domestic terrorist from shedding the blood of American citizens.

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