President Trump has a long history of animosity towards any even slightly critical press. He has taken aim at journalists during press conferences, interviews, and rallies:
And he has used Twitter to disparage not only networks, but also specific reporters:
New Day on CNN treats me very badly. @AlisynCamerota is a disaster. Not going to watch anymore.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 21, 2016
Crazy Joe Scarborough and dumb as a rock Mika are not bad people, but their low rated show is dominated by their NBC bosses. Too bad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 1, 2017
When will Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd and @NBCNews start talking about the Obama SURVEILLANCE SCANDAL and stop with the Fake Trump/Russia story?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 1, 2017
This has created an atmosphere crackling with anger towards journalists. We know that anger can often precipitate violence, as in the case of Rep. Gianforte (R-MT). He physically attacked a journalist and was immediately elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. He pled guilty (after smearing the journalist) and continues to serve as a congressman, even leading a communications workshop for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Since Trump shows no signs of mending his relationship with the press, Rep. Swalwell (D-CA) took the step of introducing legislation that would give federal recourse to press physically attacked by anyone. On CNN’s Reliable Sources, he said:
‘I’m afraid that many journalists will continue to come under attack, and I want to make sure that if it’s politically unpopular in a particular part of the country to prosecute someone who abuses a journalist that there’s a federal backstop.’
Trump’s green light to his supporters has enabled them to turn on the press. Just listen to the voices of Trump campaign rally attendees:
This is unprecedented in recent American politics. Katy Tur, a journalist and favorite target of Trump, described her experiences covering Trump rallies:
Now, standing up for anyone in the media could get you into trouble in certain parts of the country. Akin to prosecuting offenses against an African-American in the 1950s or 1960s, federal protections could be incredibly important to protect the vulnerable. And Rep. Swalwell is making sure that those protections will be enshrined in law.
Featured image: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty