Some Reporters Covering Trump Rallies Worry as Anti-Media Atmosphere Thickens
Since Donald Trump’s presidential campaign took off, there have been numerous reports of the sometimes violent nature of the crowds attending his massive rallies, including tales of pushing, shoving and other physical altercations instigated by attendees pumped up by Trump’s hateful rhetoric. “I can’t vote for Trump after that way I was treated,” said one student who was kicked out of a rally.
Trump’s angry speeches at these rallies are nothing new, but the targets of his vitriol keep changing. In recent weeks, Trump has narrowed his focus to one enemy: the mainstream media.
His wife, Melania Trump, has threatened to sue at least 10 news outlets for “false and defamatory statements.” And earlier this week, Trump tweeted:
It is being reported by virtually everyone, and is a fact, that the media pile on against me is the worst in American political history!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2016
At a rally in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., earlier this month, Trump used similar rhetoric to blame the media for “rigging” the election. “The media is rigged. It’s crooked as hell,” he told his supporters. “The media is unbelievably dishonest. I would actually say the media is almost as crooked as ‘Crooked’ Hillary Clinton.”
He offered a solution to “rigged” media in an email sent to supporters, asking them to become “election observers” to ensure against voter or election fraud.
For many reporters in the press pen at Trump’s rallies, the harsh language sometimes turns personal. He often calls out specific reporters, and his supporters openly express their hatred of the media. Some reporters take the aggression with a sense of humor:
Trump supporter swings by the press pen in Kissimmee, FL to let us know we’re number one!! pic.twitter.com/WzUPBal7nW
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) August 12, 2016
But for others, it’s cause for serious concern. Trump called one ABC reporter “a sleaze” during a press conference, for instance. Reporter Katy Tur, who has followed the Trump campaign since the beginning, revealed what it was like to be called out in one of his rallies in a piece for Marie Claire magazine:
“She’s back there. Little Katy. She’s back there.”
I was six months into covering the Trump campaign for MSNBC and NBC News, and there I was, in the belly of a World War II battleship, in a press pen made out of bicycle racks, surrounded by thousands of whipped-up Trump supporters.
A few days earlier, at another Trump rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, I’d tweeted live as wave after wave of [protesters] stood up during his speech. “Now 10,” I wrote from the scene, counting the interruptions. “Trump ends speech abruptly and leaves stage.”
Trump thought my tweets were “disgraceful” and “not nice!” according to a chastising note from his 26-year-old press secretary, Hope Hicks. …
He demanded I apologize.
I didn’t, so Trump decided to go further in Mount Pleasant, pointing his finger squarely at me and launching a personal attack as millions of Americans watched at home.
“What a lie it was,” Trump said, referring to the claim that he had left the stage abruptly. “What a lie. Katy Tur. What a lie it was. Third. Rate. Reporter. Remember that.” The crowd’s boos ricocheted off the iron hull of the USS Yorktown.
Now another reporter has gone public with his experience at a Trump campaign rally. Jared Yates Sexton, who has written for the New Republic and The New York Times, went undercover at a Trump rally in Charlotte, N.C., earlier this month. In a long string of tweets, Sexton reveals how Trump’s harsh criticism of the media inspires his supporters to use violent language. “There is a definitive difference in how crowd’s talking about press,” Sexton writes at one point. “Mentions of violence, jailing.”
This anger, he argues, is different from the rage directed at Trump’s other perceived enemies, such as Hillary Clinton. “Still as much violent rhetoric against Clinton, but the talk about press has escalated,” Sexton says.
He blames the rise in fury on the appointment to Trump’s campaign of Stephen Bannon, the executive chairman of Brietbart News (on leave), who is known for his combativeness. “Bannon has changed everything,” Sexton says. “Trump speeches always lose [the] crowd twenty minutes in after he boasts and rallies. This has them focused and listening … This is literally all Breitbart material. No difference. None.”
Read Sexton’s entire stream of tweets below: