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‘Great people!’ Trump backs anti-lockdown protesters filmed harassing reporter in Long Island

President praises demonstrators who insulted and berated journalist who attended their protest to report their point of view

Phil Thomas
New York
Saturday 16 May 2020 15:57 BST
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Protesters shouting 'fake news' harass reporter who wanted to tell their story

Donald Trump has backed a group of anti-lockdown protesters in Long Island, New York, who were filmed harassing and insulting a journalist who had turned up to cover their demonstration.

The president retweeted a video by journalist Kevin Vesey talking about what he called “alarming” levels of anger from the people he spoke to but pledging to cover their story fairly. Mr Trump added the comment: “People can’t get enough of this. Great people!”

In another tweet, Vesey – who works for Long Island broadcaster News12LI – wrote: “I’ll probably never forget what happened today.

“I was insulted. I was berated. I was practically chased by people who refused to wear masks in the middle of a pandemic.

“All the while, I was there to tell THEIR story. Here’s the finished product.”

In the videos, a crowd of people, many not wearing masks or observing social distancing advice, shout at the reporter that he is “fake news” and an “enemy of the people”, both phrases commonly used by Mr Trump to demean the media.

At one point a group of people chant: “Fake news is not essential!”

One man flicks a middle finger at Vesey while another, apparently recognising him from his reports, says: “Tell the truth, Kevin.”

More than 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, leading to mounting pressure to open up businesses again. Some of the protesters in the video indicate that they are no longer receiving paychecks.

Mr Trump has regularly praised protesters, most recently the armed demonstrators who have held rallies against stay-at-home measures at state capitols like Lansing, Michigan. Some disrupted the work of state legislators, prompting at least one representative to come to work wearing a bulletproof vest.

In 2017 he said there were “very fine people” among right-wing protesters in Charlottesville, Viriginia, many of whom had been chanting “Jews will not replace us”. One, who had expressed white nationalist views, was later convicted of the murder of counter-protester Heather Heyer after deliberately crashing a car into a crowd of people.

The president’s tweet was one of a string on Saturday as he spent the morning attacking the media, his predecessor Barack Obama and his political enemies. He also vowed to “remedy” what he suggested was “Radical Left” bias on social media, giving his public backing to controversial right-wing activist Michelle Malkin. According to his official schedule the president had no official appointments on Saturday, although not all of his activities are listed.

Although most of his Saturday morning tweets were aimed at his political enemies, he did address the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 1.4 million Americans and killed more than 80,000.

Along with saying the US would donate ventilators to India, he wrote: “We’ve done a GREAT job on Covid response, making all Governors look good, some fantastic (and that’s OK), but the Lamestream Media doesn’t want to go with that narrative, and the Do Nothing Dems talking point is to say only bad about “Trump”. I made everybody look good, but me!”

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