Donald Trump's deputy press secretary, Sarah Sanders, made a not-ha-ha-funny statement earlier this week when she told reporters that Trump has never “encouraged violence,” even as she defended him for “hitting back” at media figure Mika Brzezinski.
On Sunday morning, Trump continued that pattern in a more explicit way than ever when he tweeted a parody video showing him assaulting an effigy of CNN, which was a re-purposing of an old WWE clip:
The outrage was swift and justified, because this is exactly the sort of real incitement that the media has been attempting to conflate with mere political “rhetoric” — and has, in fact, been ignoring for far too long. And like his attack on Brzezinski, Trump's favorite targets were often women.
At a rally in December 2015, Trump whipped the crowd into a frenzy against one particular reporter, NBC News's Katy Tur, singling her out by name:
“She's back there. Little Katy. She's back there. What a lie it was. What a lie — Katy Tur!”
Not long after that, Tur found herself the subject of some particularly aggressive action from Trump supporters at a rally in February 2016:
After both incidents, MSNBC's reaction was to do nothing, even as it jumped to defend Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough from CNN's reporting on their relationship with Trump.
Of course, even being on Trump's good side has an enormous downside. After Tur made a positive comment about Trump, in happier times, he “rewarded” her in the way that he's allowed to because he's a celebrity:
“Katy Tur, what happened? She was so great. I just saw her back there and I gave her a big kiss.”
Given the choice, it might be better to be ripped apart by rabid Trumpists, but that's not a choice anyone should have to make.
Ana Navarro is right. Trump's incitement poses a real danger, and not just to journalists. This violent display translates easily to anyone who dares to criticize Trump and reads as explicit permission to act out.
But journalists have a unique responsibility to stand up to this. It's time for them to begin walking out of Trump photo ops and hidden White House briefings until this hostility ceases.
Please note: This is a commentary piece. The views and opinions expressed within it are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of IJR.