A video depicting a fictitious Donald Trump committing a series of violent acts against the news media and his political opponents at the “Church of Fake News,” was shown during a three-day conference held by the president’s supporters at the Trump National Doral Miami last week, The New York Times reported on October 13. In the video, a man with Trump’s head superimposed on his body is shown moving through a church shooting, stabbing and lighting on fire parishioners whose faces were replaced with the logos of news organizations that include PBS, NPR, Politico, The Washington Post, NBC and Vice News, and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, as well as political figures Trump reviles. It harkens back to a similar video that surfaced on social media in 2017 depicting Trump body slamming a man with the CNN logo superimposed on his head.
“We at RSF are horrified by this video, which is a clear attempt to chill journalism in the United States,” said Dokhi Fassihian, Executive Director of RSF USA. “This video is a direct threat to the safety of journalists. President Trump should denounce it immediately. RSF encourages members of both political parties and all 2020 presidential candidates to denounce this attack on the press as well. This intimidation of the media is the sort of thing we see under authoritarian regimes. It has no place in America.”
The White House Correspondents’ Association, CNN, and a number of journalists and political figures have condemned the video since it first surfaced. While the White House press secretary says Trump “strongly condemns” the video, the president has yet to make any statement on the subject. The otherwise widespread outrage over its violent imagery comes in the context of a nation that was shocked just more than a year ago when a private individual with a long-standing grudge against the Capital Gazette newspaper entered the Maryland newsroom in June 2018 with a shotgun, taking the lives of four journalists and one other employee. Since then, federal authorities have arrested multiple individuals who have attempted or been preparing for acts of violence against newsrooms in the United States.
The United States is ranked 48th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index, after dropping three places in the last year.