Thursday was the deadliest day for U.S. journalism since 9/11 — but Trump won't talk to reporters about it.
Approached by reporters in the hours after Thursday's fatal shooting at a newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, Trump refused to answer a single question about the tragedy or offer his condolences to the grieving families.
In a video clip posted by NBC News, Trump can be seen walking away from the press on the White House lawn as reporters tried in vain to get him to speak about the shooting that left five employees of the Capital Gazette newspaper dead just hours earlier.
"Can you please talk to us about the dead reporters in Annapolis?" several reporters called out. Another asked, "Do you have any words of condolences for the families, Mr. President?"
Trump looked up several times and glared at the camera, but continued walking away in silence.
As he turned his back on them, several reporters can be heard asking, "Why are you walking away?" and "Why don't you come and talk to us about that?"
"Can you please talk to us about the dead reporters in Annapolis?"
“Do you have any words of condolence for the families, Mr. President?”
"Why are you walking away?"
— NBC News (@NBCNews) June 28, 2018
The attack on the local newsroom marked the deadliest day for U.S. journalism since 9/11.
Trump only found time for a tweet.
While Trump's hostility toward the press is nothing new, his callous and cowardly response in the immediate aftermath of such a major tragedy left many reporters shocked by what they had just seen.
"I can't think of a single other President in my lifetime who would have acted like this," Politico investigative reporter Josh Meyer wrote in response to the NBC News video. "Perhaps he fears questions about whether his anti-media rhetoric played a role?"
Although the motive of the gunman is unknown, the shooting — described as a "targeted attack" — brought renewed attention to Trump's frequent attacks on the press, which have created a hostile and often dangerous environment for journalists.
"The shooting today in the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland cannot reasonably be separated from the President's mission to villainize the press as 'the enemy of the American people,'" journalist Lauren Duca tweeted on Thursday.
Brian Klaas, a Washington Post columnist and author of "The Despot's Apprentice," said he was waiting for all the facts on the Annapolis shooting, but noted that it must be seen as part of a broader pattern ushered in by Trump.
"[V]iolence against journalists — and incitement to violence against journalists — isn’t an isolated incident under Trump," he wrote.
And he's right.
Trump’s attacks on the press have been one of the most defining characteristics of his presidency. From the earliest days of his campaign right up to the rallies he held this week, Trump has relentlessly waged war on the free press, often referring to news organizations as "the enemy of the people" and encouraging his supporters to verbally harass and demean reporters.
He frequently targets specific journalists for criticism, even going as far as shutting reporters out of White House events, threatening to revoke their presidency credentials, and demanding their firing when they ask tough questions.
In April, Acosta commented on Trump's incendiary anti-press rhetoric, saying, "My concern is is that a journalist is going to be hurt one of these days, somebody’s going to get hurt."
"And at that point," he said, "the White House, the president of the United States, they’re going to have to take a hard look in the mirror and ask themselves whether or not they played a role in this, whether they created this toxic environment that resulted in a journalist getting hurt."
We've reached that point.
Although we don't know yet what motivated the shooter in this incident, there's little doubt that the Trump White House has cultivated a more dangerous country for reporters.
And based on Trump's deafening silence in the aftermath of Thursday's attack, it appears that he is well aware of what he has done — and continues to do.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.