The White House has condemned violent attacks on the media after a BBC cameraman was allegedly shoved by a Donald Trump supporter at one of the US President’s rallies yesterday.
Cameraman Ron Skeans was said to have been shoved by a man wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap after Trump “whipped up” the crowd in El Paso, Texas, against the media, according to BBC reporters.
Journalists who witnessed the incident claim the supporter also tried to smash Skeans camera after getting past security around the media pen.
A man wearing a red MAGA hat and shouting “fuck the media” was eventually pulled out of the press area by another man wearing a red cap.
A White House statement released yesterday did not make explicit reference to the attack in Texas, but condemned acts of violence more broadly.
It said: “President Trump condemns all acts of violence against any individual or group of people – including members of the press. We ask that anyone attending an event do so in a peaceful and respectful manner.”
BBC North America editor Jon Sopel described the alleged attack on Skeans as a “pretty unsurprising event” in a BBC blog post.
He said: “Once I found out that he was OK, and that the rest of the team were OK, I thought this was a pretty unsurprising event.
“What is shocking is that my reaction should be like that – because surely it can never be right that a person going about doing their job, in a country which cherishes the First Amendment and the rights of a free press, is pushed to the ground.
“But it is an incident that’s been coming for a long time.”
Just attended my first @realDonaldTrump rally where my colleague BBC cameraman Rob Skeans was attacked by a Trump supporter. The crowd had been whipped up into a frenzy against the media by Trump and other speakers all night #TrumpElPaso pic.twitter.com/Oiw8osPms3
— Eleanor Montague (@EleanorMontague) February 12, 2019
Speaking to Sky News about the attack, UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said it was “never acceptable when journalists and cameramen are attacked just for doing their job”.
He added: “There is a broader issue here, which is last year 80 journalists were killed just doing their job – around half of them specifically targeted or murdered.
“We are very worried about this because freedom of the press is the invisible line between open societies and closed societies.”
The White House Correspondents Association, a representative body of the White House press pack, also condemned the attack.
It said: “We are relieved that, this time, no one was seriously hurt. The president of the United States should make absolutely clear to his supporters that violence against reporters is unacceptable.”
Skeans told BBC News that the supporter gave him a “very hard shove” from his blindside. He was not seriously injured however.
Sharing footage of the incident, BBC Washington news editor Eleanor Montague tweeted: “Just attended my first Donald Trump rally where my colleague BBC cameraman Ron Skeans was attacked by a Trump supporter.
“The crowd had been whipped up into a frenzy against the media by Trump and other speakers all night.”
During the rally, Trump said: “The media refuses to acknowledge how well we’ve done.” He also claimed that “no matter” what his administration did, the media “found a way to make it negative”.
BBC Americas bureaux chief Paul Danahar has written to White House press secretary Sarah Sanders “asking for a full review of security arrangements for the media” following the attack, claiming that law enforcement had failed to intervene.
Picture: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster