New York, February 12, 2019 — The Committee to Protect Journalists today expressed concern about the safety of journalists covering President Donald Trump’s political rallies after a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) camera operator, Ron Skeans, was assaulted during a rally in El Paso, Texas, last night.
“It’s outrageous that a journalist was attacked while covering a presidential speech,” said Alexandra Ellerbeck, CPJ’s North America program coordinator. “We call on President Trump to moderate his rhetoric against the press and to state clearly that physically attacking media personnel is not acceptable.”
Skeans was filming the event, which was focused on immigration issues, when he was “violently pushed and shoved,” by a member of the crowd, the BBC said in a statement. The attacker has not been identified. In footage of the incident aired by the BBC, anti-media epithets can be heard before the assault, and then a man wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat, a cap often worn by Trump’s supporters, can be seen being dragged away. BBC Washington News Editor Eleanor Montague, who was present at the incident, posted on Twitter that the “crowd had been whipped up into a frenzy against the media by Trump and other speakers all night.”
The BBC wrote to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders asking for a review of security arrangements for reporters at future rallies, the broadcaster reported.
In October 2018, the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, of which CPJ is a partner, noted that President Trump had spoken fondly of a physical attack on a journalist during a rally in Montana, praising Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte for body-slamming Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs the previous year.