CNN's John Avlon: GOP candidate's alleged assault of reporter related to “atmosphere” from Trump attacking press

Avlon: Trump has been “stoking those fires of fear and anger and resentment” against reporters

From the May 25 edition of CNN's New Day:

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ALISYN CAMEROTA (CO-HOST): It's hard to imagine someone being more measured in their response to being body slammed than the audio that you hear of Ben Jacobs there saying, “You just body slammed me. You broke my glasses. I'm going to call the police.” I mean not yelling, not shouting. What is this reporter like? 

JOHN AVLON: Look, Ben Jacobs is a smart reporter. He was getting a question about breaking news, about the scoring of the health care bill, and the audio tells the real story. So the fact that the campaign spin contradicts it should be discounted. Let's call that for what it is: a lie. An attempt also to demonize Ben Jacobs as a quote “liberal journalist.” And that added partisan insult, I think, speaks to the ugliness of not only what happened but what they're trying to tap into. The candidate flipped out to a question he didn't feel comfortable answering. And according to Fox News people who were on the scene from the local --

CAMEROTA: Alicia Acuna was there. She's an excellent reporter.

AVLON: -- that the candidate, the Republican candidate, the night before an election, physically not only slammed Ben Jacobs to the ground, but started punching him. This is not behavior that is acceptable for any adult, let alone someone who wants to represent the people of Montana in Congress. 

CHRIS CUOMO (CO-HOST): Well and he caught an assault charge, David Gregory. I mean in terms of the criminal incident, it seems to be a no-brainer. The campaign can say whatever it wants. It's obviously fabricating the story to cover the guy losing it over what this reporter was asking about. So that's one component. Doesn't seem to be much of a case in terms of a defense to the assault charge. The guy did it, he lost his cool, and he did something stupid, and he should go through the system.


KAROUN DEMIRJIAN: I think that, certainly, [Greg] Gianforte is going to say it's an isolated incident and others that have been experiencing these sorts of things, that the accused assailants would be saying they're isolated incidents. But we've seen this happen -- I believe it was earlier this week or just a few days ago, another one of my colleagues in Congress, John Donnelly, got roughed up, pushed against a wall when he was in the FCC trying to ask a question. You've got this kind of culture of “the reporters are the enemy” going on and it depends. I mean you see a lot of Democrats pointing the finger at the president right now, saying, “You've created, you've helped create at least this culture where people consider reporters to be a fifth column” or something.

CAMEROTA: Enemy of the people. 

DEMIRJIAN: Exactly, right. And so -- and saying like maybe that doesn't mean go out and assault a reporter, but it certainly creates an environment in which this is somehow OK to hate reporters, and that sometimes fists fly in that situation. And do this is the debate.

CUOMO: The flip side is though, John -- the flip side is it fair to blame the president for the actions of one dope in Montana? 

AVLON: No. No, there's not a direct connection, but it's about creating an atmosphere, consciously stoking those fires of fear and anger and resentment. And this isn't subtle. This is the president of the United States calling the press the quote “enemy of the American people.” A lot of rhetoric in his rallies over the course of the campaign where people at the rallies expressed a lot of anger and hostility to the press and reporters. And it's part of a larger pattern we should be aware of. This guy clearly flipped off the handle. He's got some anger management issues. 

CUOMO: His responsibility, his behavior.

AVLON: Yeah. His responsibility and let's not try to diffuse that. Ben Jacobs is not exactly a threatening human being. This was a thuggish and bullying act.

CUOMO: Well that's probably why he went at him in the first place. You know what I mean? This is a bully kind of situation.


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