President Donald Trump said Friday that journalists “should be free from the fear of being violently attacked,” as he addressed the deadly shooting at a newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland.
Trump said the attack on the Capital Gazette, which left five dead and others injured, “shocked the conscience of our nation and filled our hearts with grief.”
“Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job,” Trump said.
He went on to tell the families of the victims: “There are no words to express our sorrow for your loss. Horrible, horrible event, horrible thing happened and you’re suffering.”
The shooting Thursday was the deadliest attack on journalists in U.S. history.
The alleged gunman, Jarrod Ramos, had a history of harassing the paper’s journalists.
The 38-year-old was ordered held in jail Friday on five counts of first-degree murder.
Ramos had filed a defamation lawsuit against the paper in 2012 that was thrown out as groundless, and he repeatedly targeted the paper’s staff members in profanity-laced tweets.
In his remarks, Trump pledged his “eternal support” to those suffering losses and said his government “will not rest until we have done everything in our power to reduce violent crime and to protect innocent life.”
The president and the press have had a rocky relationship since long before he took office, and Trump has frequently criticized outlets that engage in “fake news.”
Asked Thursday whether she had any concerns that the president’s criticism of the media might pose a danger, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said, “There is no room for violence, and we stick by that. Violence is never tolerated in any form, no matter whom it is against.”
Press secretary Sarah Sanders added in a tweet: “Strongly condemn the evil act of senseless violence in Annapolis, MD. A violent attack on innocent journalists doing their job is an attack on every American. Our prayers are with the victims and their friends and families.”
Despite the criticism back and forth between Trump and the media, the president is an avid consumer of news and seems to enjoy his frequent interactions with reporters.
He has also, at times, praised the press, telling a room of journalists at the annual Gridiron Dinner this year that “there are few professions that I respect more.”
“I want to thank the press for all you do to support and sustain our democracy. I mean that. I mean that. Some incredible people in the press … brilliant, powerful, smart, and fair people in the press. And I want to thank you,” he said then.
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