Trump finally condemns attacks on media after BBC incident

A Trump supporter shoves a BBC cameraman at the El Paso rally

Donald Trump has condemned attacks on the media after an incident involving a BBC cameraman at the US president’s rally in Texas on Monday.

A White House statement did not refer to the specific incident.

It said the president “condemns all acts of violence against any individual or group of people – including members of the press”.

The BBC’s Ron Skeans was shoved and sworn at by a man in a Make America Great Again cap in El Paso.

The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) later asked the White House to review security for media attending President Trump’s rallies.

In a letter, the BBC said the press area was unsupervised, and no security had tried to intervene during the incident.

The White House statement, from Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, added: “We ask that anyone attending an event do so in a peaceful and respectful manner.”

Mr Trump has been critical of media, which he has called the enemy of the people.

After Monday’s incident, Mr Trump’s campaign team thanked law enforcement for ejecting the unidentified man.

“An individual involved in a physical altercation with a news cameraman was removed from last night’s rally,” said Michael Glassner, the chief operating officer for Trump for President Inc.

“We appreciate the swift action from venue security and law enforcement officers.”

What happened at the rally?

The man, who a Trump campaign official said appeared to be drunk, gave Mr Skeans a “very hard shove”, according to the cameraman.

President Trump told supporters in El Paso, “we’re building the wall anyway”

Mr Skeans said the man almost knocked him and his camera over twice before he was wrestled away by a blogger.

President Trump saw the attack, checked they were well with a thumbs up and continued his speech after Mr Skeans returned the gesture.

BBC Washington producer Eleanor Montague and Washington correspondent Gary O’Donoghue were sitting in front of the camera.

Ms Montague said the protester had attacked other news crews but Mr Skeans “got the brunt of it”.

What did the BBC letter say?

In the letter to Ms Sanders, the BBC’s Americas Bureaux Editor Paul Danahar asked for a review of security arrangements for members of the press attending the president’s rallies.

Mr Danahar pointed out “that access into the media area last night was unsupervised and that no member of law enforcement or security stopped the attacker entering, intervened when he began his attack or followed up on the incident with our colleagues afterwards”.

What is the background?

The president went to El Paso, on the US border with Mexico, to campaign for a border wall, a divisive issue which caused the longest government shutdown in US history.

Ms Montague said the president had spoken of “fake news” and how the media misrepresented him in the run up to the assault.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr O’Donoghue said it was “an incredibly violent attack”.

Last August UN experts warned Mr Trump’s attacks “increase the risk of journalists being targeted with violence”, calling his rhetoric “strategic”.

New York Times publisher AG Sulzberger has urged the president to stop his media assaults.

Mitt Romney: Trump’s actions have caused worldwide dismay

Romney criticised a number of Trump's actions in December [File: Mike Segar/Reuters]
Romney criticised a number of Trump’s actions in December [File: Mike Segar/Reuters]

Mitt Romney, former Republican presidential candidate and incoming US senator from Utah, sharply criticised President Donald Trump and said the US leader had caused dismay around the world.

In an opinion piece published in the Washington Post late on Tuesday, Romney criticised a number of Trump’s actions in December.

“The appointment of senior persons of lesser experience, the abandonment of allies who fight beside us, and the president’s thoughtless claim that America has long been a ‘sucker’ in world affairs all defined his presidency down,” he wrote.

He added that “Trump’s words and actions have caused dismay around the world.”

Romney suggested that “on balance, (Trump’s) conduct over the past two years … is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.”

Trump hit back in an early morning tweet on Wednesday, saying, “Here we go with Mitt Romney, but so fast!”

Trump questioned whether Romney will be “a Flake”, referring to outgoing Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who was a frequent critic of Trump.

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“Would much prefer that Mitt focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful,” Trump said. “I won big, and he didn’t. He should be happy for all Republicans. Be a TEAM player & WIN!”

Romney-Trump relationship

Romney’s op-ed came as he and other politicians take up their seats in the new Congress. It is unclear whether Trump will face a serious challenge in 2020 in securing the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.

Last February, Trump endorsed Romney’s run for a Senate seat in Utah.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Romney excoriated Trump as a “fraud” who was “playing the American public for suckers”. Trump responded that Romney had “choked like a dog” in his unsuccessful 2012 campaign against Democratic President Barack Obama.

Despite Romney’s prior criticism, after Trump won the presidency in November 2016, he briefly considered tapping Romney as secretary of state.

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In the op-ed on Tuesday, Romney said he “will speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions”.

Romney has strongly defended press freedom and challenged Trump’s repeated attacks on some news outlets as an “enemy of the people”.

“The media is essential to our Republic, to our freedom, to the cause of freedom abroad, and to our national security. It is very much our friend,” Romney wrote in an essay in November.