One of Donald Trump’s favorite pastimes is watching cable news and tweeting about it to attack journalists who disagree with him or investigate his administration. Last week, he even gave out his made-up “fake news” awards to outlets he considers dishonest. But he’s not doing anyone any favors. In fact, Trump’s media bashing is threatening people’s lives, and we’re actually a little scared that he won’t stop until someone gets hurt.
On January 22nd, BuzzFeed News reported that a man was arrested in Michigan for making threatening calls to the CNN headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. On January 9 he called and said, “Fake news. I’m coming to gun you all down. F‑‑‑ you, f‑‑‑ing n‑‑‑‑‑s.” He called back three minutes later saying, “I am on my way right now to gun the f‑‑‑in’ CNN cast down. F‑‑‑ you.” According to the report, the operator asked the caller his name, to which he responded, “I am coming to kill you.”
He called back later saying, “I’m coming for you CNN. I’m smarter than you. More powerful than you. I have more guns than you. More manpower. Your cast is about to get gunned down in a matter of hours.” He made 22 calls in two days, often using ethnic and racial slurs along with his threat.
News of his arrest went public on January 22nd. He showed up in court on January 19th and was released on a $10,000 bond to be happily home before dinner, according to the Intercept. His father told the Washington Post in a statement:
According to court records, the Post reports, the man was born in 1998. So he may not be a grown man, but he certainly could have had a gun, killed people, and known the “seriousness” of violent threats. The way things unfolded, the man was likely home in time to scroll through Trump’s “Fake News” awards last week. And to see, the morning after his arrest was made public, the president tweet about “crazy Jim Accosta,” a CNN anchor, and yet again call the network “fake news.”
Someone has to inform the president that his war on the media is no longer a joke, if it ever was, and that he’s putting lives at risk by inciting violence against outlets he considers dishonest.
Not only did the president ignore that he might have incited a threat of violence from one of his supporters in this instance, he also didn’t disavow the school shooting in Kentucky this week either. (Nor did he mention that it was the 11th shooting this year so far. Yes, 11 in 23 days.) What he has tweeted about is “fake news,” the threat of immigrants from Mexico and predominantly Muslim countries, along with the usual name-calling of Democrats. The CNN threat this week and the man’s subsequent arrest is proof that our president has successfully dog-whistled his supporters into believing that mass shootings are OK as long as they’re perpetrated by white men (that the president won’t call terrorists) and that media outlets make great targets.
This isn’t the first time that Trump has incited violence from his supporters. Back during the 2016 campaign, one of his campaign managers struck a reporter at a rally. Two of his supporters are facing lawsuits for assaulting counter-protestors at a rally. During the campaign, Trump even offered to pay the legal fees for any supporter who “knocked the crap” out of a counter protestor. Now, we have someone threatening gun violence using Trump’s favorite phrases.
The scariest thought is that if someone did actually shoot up a CNN newsroom (or jump a reporter, or attack an immigrant, or “grab a p*ssy”), Trump would probably deflect the blame, too, as he has done with everything else he’s been accused of so far. His lack of empathy for other human beings runs so deep that he doesn’t think he has any responsibility at all to model civil behavior.
Despite bragging all the time about how much power he has, Trump takes no responsibility for how his words and actions influence others. The cognitive dissonance is very real, and it’s scary to think that he could actually get someone killed or that there is someone out there right now planning to fight the “enemy,” or American journalists, on Trump’s behalf. All because Trump’s toxic masculinity has led him to believe that making threats or retweeting actual fake news is somehow funny.
Trump’s supporters are listening to him, and they’re convinced that most American journalists and many American citizens are threats to their well being. Whether it’s by picking up a torch or making a “prank” call, real people are in danger because of the president, whose main job is to keep us safe.
If Trump refuses to disavow his white supremacist supporters, the very least he could do is ask them to not *actually* pick up arms against media organizations and regular people. Before someone actually dies.