Maryland shooting: Trump ducks questions over Capital Gazette killings, as president's attacks on journalists come into focus

President has repeatedly referred to media as 'enemy of the people'

Chris Baynes
Friday 29 June 2018 13:29 BST
Donald Trump ignores reporters asking for his reaction to Maryland shooting

Donald Trump ignored questions about the killing of five people at a newspaper in Maryland, walking silently past reporters at the White House as they asked him for “any words about the dead”.

The president did not respond when asked for “any words of condolence” for families of the victims of the shooting at the Capital Gazette's offices in Annapolis on Thursday.

Police said a man with a grudge against the local paper had opened fire using a shotgun in a “targeted attack” which killed four journalists and a sales assistant.

Jarrod Ramos, 38, lost a defamation lawsuit against the paper in 2012 after it reported his campaign of harassment against a woman he went to school with.

Mr Trump offered his “thoughts and prayers” to the victims of the shooting in brief message on Twitter on Thursday afternoon.

But TV footage later showed him ignoring requests to speak about the massacre as he arrived back in Washington by helicopter following a campaign-style visit to a factory in Wisconsin.

In the clip, he glances towards journalists and walks away as one shouts: “Can you please talk to us about the dead reporters in Annapolis? Do you have any words of condolence for the families, Mr President?”

Another reporter asks: “Why are you walking away?”

Mr Trump’s silence prompted condemnation from journalists on Twitter. Politico investigations reporter Josh Meyer suggested the president “fears questions about whether his anti-media rhetoric played a role”.

The killings have prompted renewed scrutiny of the president’s frequent verbal attacks on the media, who he has repeatedly referred to as “the enemy of the people”.

Less than 24 hours before the newsroom massacre, crowds booed the media at a rally in North Dakota after Mr Trump suggested they covered him unfairly.

Two days earlier, the president pointed towards journalists at a rally in South Carolina and called them “the enemy of the people”.

He added: “Look at all those fake-newsers back there.”

Vitriol towards journalists was also a recurring theme of Mr Trump’s presidential campaign.

“I would never kill them, but I do hate them,” he told an audience in December 2015. “Some of them are such lying, disgusting people. It’s true.”

During a rally in Phoenix in August last year, Mr Trump led a crowd into chanting “CNN sucks”.

The broadcaster has been a regular target of the president’s attacks. In July he tweeted a video depicting himself body-slamming the CNN logo in a wrestling ring.

CNN also featured alongside The New York Times and The Washington Post in Mr Trump's self-proclaimed “Fake News awards”, in which he singled out journalists and media outlets he claimed had been unfairly negative towards him.

Democrat senator Jeff Blake subsequently described Mr Trump’s attacks on the media as “dangerous” in a speech which likened the president to Joseph Stalin.

Asked about Mr Trump’s anti-journalist rhetoric in the aftermath of the Annapolis shooting, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said: “There is no room for violence, and we stick by that. Violence is never tolerated in any form, no matter whom it is against.”

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