White House condemns attack on BBC cameraman at Trump rally

by Kim Boateng Posted on February 13th, 2019

A BBC cameraman was assaulted by a man wearing a red Make America Great Again hat as he filmed a rally held by President Donald Trump in El Paso, Texas, on Monday.

Ron Skeans said he was behind the camera when he was given a “very hard shove” from behind.

“I didn’t know what was going on,” Skeans said. He said the man almost knocked his camera over twice before being wrestled away by another man.

“It was an incredibly violent attack. Fortunately, our cameraman is fine. He is made of stern stuff,” BBC Washington correspondent Gary O’Donoghue said in a radio interview.

The incident happened after Trump railed against the news media and the coverage of his administration, which he said was mostly negative.

The White House on Tuesday denounced the attack and called on guests at rallies to be “peaceful.”

“President Trump condemns all acts of violence against any individual or group of people – including members of the press,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “We ask that anyone attending an event do so in a peaceful and respectful manner.”

Video of the incident shows the BBC camera focused on Trump as he delivers his speech when the shot suddenly jolts away toward the floor. When the camera pans back up, a man in a MAGA hat is seen cursing in the direction of the news crews as he is dragged away by another man in a red cap.

“CNN sucks!” the crowd began to chant as the man was dragged away.

Trump, shielding his eyes from the stage lights, tried to see what was happening.

“You all right? Everything OK?” the president asked as he pointed toward the rear of the arena where the cameras were set up. He gave a thumbs up, which Skeans said he returned, and said, “OK, thank you,” before resuming his speech.

BBC producer Eleanor Montague said the man attacked other news crews as well, but Skeans “got the brunt of it.”

“BBC cameraman Ron Skeans was violently pushed and shoved by a member of the crowd while covering a President Trump rally in Texas last night. The man was removed by security and Ron is fine. The President could see the incident and checked with us that all was ok,” a BBC spokesperson told USA TODAY in a statement. “It is clearly unacceptable for any of our staff to be attacked for doing their job.”

Getting the crowd riled up against the news media is a staple at Trump rallies. The president, who has assailed unfavorable coverage as “fake news” and called the press the “enemy of the American people,” regularly takes a moment at his speeches to point toward the cameras to vilify the journalists covering the event.

“This is a constant feature of these rallies: a goading of the crowds against the media,” O’Donoghue said. He added that he had been “spat at before” at another Trump rally.

The White House Correspondents Association also denounced the attack and called on the president, himself, to condemn what happened.

“The White House Correspondents’ Association condemns the physical attack on our colleague at the president’s rally in El Paso, Texas,” said Olivier Knox, the organization’s president. “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.”

Less than five minutes into his speech on Monday, Trump touted his popularity “despite the fact that the media refuses to acknowledge what we’ve done and how well we’re doing it.”

The line drew a chorus of boos from the crowd.

“I guess 93 percent of the stories are negative. No matter what we do they figure out a way to make it bad,” he said to an angrier round of boos.

The assault on Skeans was one of several interruptions during Trump’s speech. The others appeared to be caused by various protesters who were removed at different points in the rally. One such incident immediately preceded Skeans’ shoving.

“Where do these people come from?” Trump asked rhetorically after one interruption by a protester. “They go back home to Mommy. They get punished when they get home.”

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Kim Boateng

Kim Boateng

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