2016 Republican candidate Donald Trump has a reputation for tough talk and bold action. The candidate remains popular with a sizeable portion of the conservative population who are sick and tired of establishment candidates selling them out to radical Democrats with a warped vision of what American should be.
However, in recent days, Trump has signaled a hostility towards the free press that appears incompatible with our notions of First Amendment protections.
Despite the fact that current libel laws prohibit media outlets from writing demonstrably false accusations, Trump has repeatedly promised to “open-up” libel laws to make is easier to sue newspapers who criticize.
With the stench of a potential tyrant already lingering around The Donald, the sight of a journalist being thrown to the ground and placed in a chokehold for merely stepping out of his assigned place in order to take a picture at a Trump campaign event is the last thing the billionaire candidate needs.
On Monday, veteran TIME Magazine photographer Christopher Morris was documenting a Trump event from the confines of the press corral- a designated place where members of the press covering Trump’s candidacy are required to stay in order to be allowed to cover the race.
An obnoxious Black Lives Matter protest erupted during the event and when Morris exited the pen to get a shot of the protest, he was accosted by Secret Service agents and police who tried to move him back into the pen.
The video shows that Morris swore at the agents and one grabbed him by the neck and threw him into a table and onto the ground.
Once on the ground, Morris appeared to be kicking at the agent who had assaulted him and at one point, put his hand on the agent’s neck. Morris later claimed that he had done so to demonstrate the chokehold that the agent had performed on him.
“I’ve worked for nine years at the White House and have never had an altercation with the Secret Service,” Morris said in a statement. “What happened today was very unfortunate and unexpected. The rules at Trump events are significantly stricter than other campaigns and make it very difficult to work as a photographer, as many others have pointed out before me. I regret my role in the confrontation, but the agent’s response was disproportionate and unnecessarily violent. I hope this incident helps call attention to the challenges of press access.”
He added: “I am shaken, but physically I am OK. I’m heading home to rest but plan to be back on the trail for TIME soon.”
Whether Morris should have abided by the rules or not is practically irrelevant. Modern journalism demands that those looking for the best picture, the best quote, etc., must be willing to bend the rules from time to time. That Trump even has the press corralled is upsetting.
What the agent did in retaliation is not only unprofessional, but an affront to our concepts of a free press.
No- the free press cannot go wherever they please and do whatever they want. But escalating immediately to this level of violence is more like the work of Brownshirts and not what we’ve come to expect from professional Secret Service agents.
Further, one cannot help but notice the serpentine of black racialists who were allowed to disrupt a political event to spew their virulently racist rhetoric. Imagine the outrage that would occur if the Secret Service had combatted these disrupters with one-tenth the aggression shown to the white photographer who merely ventured beyond his designated place.
Here’s moments prior. The reporter says “f*ck you” — that’s when it got physical pic.twitter.com/h9K2wIbEWQ
— Joe Perticone (@JoePerticone) February 29, 2016
Gif of the moment in question in case Instagram gets pulled. Brutal. pic.twitter.com/Lh9Q65WW07
— Brian Ries (@moneyries) February 29, 2016