At a rally in Tampa, Florida last night, Donald Trump touched on some familiar political themes: Telling Americans they can use the Christian holiday greeting “Merry Christmas” again; deriding his 2016 rival Hillary Clinton as “crooked;” falsely claiming that Democrats want to give illegal aliens the right to vote. Stirring up his base with divisive statements, in order to drive voters to the polls is part of the Republican plan to win in November’s midterm elections, which typically draw fewer voters than presidential races.
Mocking and booing the “fake news media” has become a familiar part of Trump rallies too. But in Tampa, the crowd’s vitriol left some concerned that the anti-media sentiment could lead to violence. CNN anchor Jim Acosta, who filmed attendees screaming at the press pen and making obscene gestures, said he was “very worried” that a member of the press would eventually be attacked.
In the video, a broad-shouldered man points out his “Fuck the media” shirt to the camera. A Santa Claus lookalike in a Hawaiian shirt and a red MAGA hat gives the camera the finger; a woman in a long pink-checked shirt does the same. A woman with expensive-looking blond highlights gives an elaborate “thumbs down” to the camera. And several wave “Q-Anon” signs, a nod to a far-right conspiracy theorist ring.
During Acosta’s live shot at the rally, the crowd behind him gleefully shouts “CNN sucks! CNN sucks!” and calls him a “traitor.”
Later, Trump’s son Eric tweeted video of Acosta being shouted at, with the hashtag #Truth, and Trump himself retweeted it:
Trump’s negative statements about the media have increased in recent months as Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling escalates.
Trump referred to the “Fake News” 49 times on Twitter in June and July, versus 47 times for the entire rest of the year. Last week, he told a crowd of veterans in Kansas City, Missouri “Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening. Just stick with us, don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news.”
Trump’s attacks on the press are becoming dangerous, church leaders and political experts said this morning, after viewing the Tampa video: