After years of repeatedly calling journalists “the enemy of the people,” President Trump on Friday struck a markedly different tone towards the media, saying in the aftermath of a deadly shooting at the Capital Gazette’s newsroom that journalists should be “free from the fear” of violence while doing their jobs.
“I’d like to address the horrific shooting that took place yesterday at Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland. This attack shocked the conscience of our nation and filled our hearts with grief,” Trump said while addressing an audience in the White House. “Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job.”
He continued: “Horrible, horrible event, horrible thing happened. In your suffering, we pledge our eternal support. The suffering is so great... My government will not rest until we have done everything in our power to reduce violent crime and to protect innocent life.”
Five employees of the The Capital newspaper—Robert Hiaasen, Wendi Winters, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith, and Gerald Fischman—were killed after alleged gunman Jarrod Ramos attacked the Annapolis newsroom with a shotgun. Ramos previously sued and threatened the newspaper for reporting on his guilty plea on a 2011 harassment case.
Despite his significantly measured rhetoric on Friday, Trump has repeatedly and vociferously castigated the mainstream media as “enemies of the people.”
Early in his presidency, Trump declared on Twitter: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
A week later, while speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump repeated the “enemy of the people” line multiple times to rapturous applause.
And just last week, at a rally for his base in South Carolina, he referred to “opposing” news networks as the “enemy of the people.” Within the same week, Trump also tweeted about “The enemy of the people Fake News,” and wrote in a separate post: “Our Country’s biggest enemy is the Fake News so easily promulgated by fools!”
Beyond that, President Trump has also occasionally shared violent memes about outlets he views as “opposing” his presidency.
Last year, for example, he infamously shared a GIF meme depicting himself body-slamming CNN in a wrestling ring.
And at another point in 2017, Trump retweeted and then deleted a cartoon meme depicting the “Trump Train” barreling through a person labeled as CNN.