President Donald Trump’s most loyal conservative and “alt-right” media allies are blaming the mainstream press's Trump coverage for Wednesday’s attack on a Republican congressional baseball practice, with one close ally to the president even calling for banning some critical journalists from the airwaves in response. This cynical campaign is the next step in their ongoing effort to delegitimize any source of unfavorable information about the president.
The shooter has been identified as James T. Hodgkinson, a home inspector and critic of the president with a history of domestic violence.
Paul Joseph Watson, an editor at Alex Jones’ Infowars site, was among the first to blame media coverage for the gunman’s attack, writing on Twitter just minutes after news broke that the culprit was “Trump derangement syndrome, radicalised by mainstream media hysterics.” He later added of journalists and the left, “The blood is on their hands.”
This cynical effort to curtail critical journalism spread from the “alt-right” fringe, through the right-wing press, to Trump’s chief propagandist at Fox News. Several of the theory’s proponents specifically pointed to the media’s coverage of the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
“The fake news media finally got what it wanted,” Mike Cernovich said on Periscope. “They’re getting their mass murderers. They’re getting the mass shooters. This is what they’ve attempted to incite for the past 18 months.” Cernovich, an “alt-right” provocateur and noted misogynist, spent the 2016 election cycle promoting “Pizzagate” smears, and now he has close ties to Trump’s White House and family.
“I have foreseen this coming,” Rush Limbaugh told his millions-strong radio audience soon after the shooting. “You can’t continue to enrage people the way the left and predominantly the mainstream media has been doing.”
Michael Savage, a right-wing radio host with a close relationship with Trump who regularly hosts the administration’s top officials, not only blamed the media for the shooting but also suggested that in response, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and other critical journalists should be removed from the airwaves by the federal government due to their “constant drumbeat of their hatred against Trump and Republicans.” Maddow’s program is notable for its intense focus on the Trump-Russia story.
At Fox, Sean Hannity declared that “the biggest issue we need to address as a country is what is a record level of vicious left-wing hate that is being spewed day after day, hour after hour, by a left-wing news media that wants to destroy the president.”
Notably, the critique these pro-Trump media figures are pushing is largely bereft of concrete examples of journalists using extreme or inciting rhetoric about the president. After making his broad indictment against the press, for example, Hannity highlighted the actions of artists and celebrities, not reporters. In other instances, the claims are simply fabricated, as with Alex Jones’ declaration that a host of newspapers have called for Trump’s death.
Instead, the president’s allies are claiming that negative coverage in general -- and negative coverage about the Russia investigation in particular -- led to violence. This is a patently cynical ploy aimed at bolstering a political strategy that the pro-Trump media have pushed for months.
Trump has been castigating the press and seeking to delegitimize journalists since the presidential campaign. He’s declared the media the “enemy of the American people.” His allies have been bolstering that effort every step of the way.
And now they’re using an attack on U.S. members of Congress as a new way to promote that argument.