A video shown at a conference for supporters of President Donald Trump late last week has drawn harsh criticism from people on both sides of the political spectrum. In the video — first reported on by The New York Times — Trump’s head is superimposed on that of actor Colin Firth, in a church massacre scene from the 2014 film “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” Trump is depicted violently shooting, stabbing and otherwise attacking national media — including CNN, NBC, BBC News and MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski and Rachel Maddow — and political opponents including U.S. Reps. Maxine Waters and Adam Schiff, former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Mitt Romney and Black Lives Matter in a so-called “Church of Fake News.”
To be clear, this horrific video was not circulated by President Trump.
His press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, tweeted Monday that the president hadn’t seen the video, “but based upon everything he has heard, he strongly condemns” it.
As he should.
As everyone should.
Among those decrying it is Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee (her uncle is Mitt Romney). “There’s no place for violence in politics,” she tweeted Monday. “Period.”
The video was aired at the American Priority Festival and Conference at Trump National Doral Miami. The event organizer said the video was played as part of a “meme exhibit.” The New York Times said parts of the video were posted on YouTube in 2018.
A meme-maker who goes by his internet handle Carpe Donktum — and who was described by Trump as a “genius” at a White House social media summit in July — confirmed to The Washington Post that the “creator of the video is, and will remain, a contributor to my site.” Carpe Donktum refused to identify the video’s creator because of concerns that the person may face harassment.
Which is rich, given that the video aims to gin up hatred against journalists and Trump’s political rivals.
We found the video sickening (just as, to be clear, the “Kingsman” film from which it was adapted would have sickened us, had we seen it — church massacres, even fictional ones, are horrifying, not funny).
This is how ghoulish this video is: Among those felled by a fictional avenging Trump is the late Republican senator, John McCain.
His widow Cindy tweeted Monday that she stood with the White House Correspondents Association in that organization’s outrage over the video.
“All Americans should condemn this depiction of violence directed toward journalists and the President’s political opponents,” ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, president of that association, said in a statement. “We have previously told the President his rhetoric could incite violence.”
Trump's rhetoric clearly inspired this video. The fear is, as Karl pointed out, that it will incite actual violence.
That fear is not unjustified.
We’ve expressed our concern, too, that the president’s frequent use of anti-media rhetoric — calling the media “scum” and “total losers,” perpetrators of “treason” and “fake news” — will spur an unstable supporter to violent action.
On Friday, United Airlines allowed a passenger wearing a T-shirt reading, “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required,” to board a flight from Los Angeles to Boston. A suggestion, even on a piece of apparel, that journalists be lynched is something we take personally (and must, for safety’s sake). We are ardent champions of free expression, but that doesn’t mean we have to like some of the sentiments expressed.
The June 2018 massacre of five staff members of the Capital Gazette — a local newspaper group in Annapolis, Maryland — remains fresh in our minds. A man with a long-held grudge against that newspaper will be tried next month for the killings.
We know that the overwhelming majority of Lancaster County residents — Republican, Democrat and independent — understand and value the role of the free press.
For our part, those of us in the Opinion department, as well as those in the news department, understand that respect is earned, not given, so we are willing to work for it. We take responsibility for any mistakes and correct them quickly. We take our jobs seriously.
Over the next 13 months, LNP journalists will be interviewing Lancaster County residents to get their thoughts about the 2020 presidential election.
The campaign is likely to be rancorous, even ugly, because, as in any presidential election, the stakes are high and because that’s how our political discourse has been trending.
Please understand that when an LNP reporter solicits your opinion, it will be because your views are seen by this newspaper as important and valued. LNP reporters aren’t pressing a political agenda. Their aim is to report on the political landscape in this county — not to champion any particular party or politician.
Same goes for the LNP reporters and correspondents who attend state, county and municipal government, as well as school board, meetings year-round. They are working to cover the stories LNP readers need and want to read.
Understand that they’re just as patriotic as you are. They worship in the same places as you; their children attend the same schools and play or march on the same fields as your children. As we've stated repeatedly, they’re not the enemy.
We in LNP Opinion are not the enemy, either. And at the end of the day, we want to go home safely to our families, just as you do.
So this is what we ask today. Don’t retweet that heinous video or anything like it. Condemn it, just as the president’s spokeswoman assured us he will. And reject rhetoric and memes that turn journalists (or anyone, for that matter) into targets.
Our families thank you.