Journalism: When the tough get roughed

A reporter friend of mine was shoved by a volunteer at a Bernie rally today, and it left her unsettled and angry. It reminded me of the time that Joe Killian, who was a reporter at the News & Record, was shoved to the ground at a 2008 Sarah Palin rally in Elon.

Joe wrote about it at the time on his blog.

I sidled up to one of the Obama supporters and asked why they were there, what they were trying to accomplish. As he was telling me a large, bearded man in full McCain-Palin campaign regalia got in his face to yell at him.

“Hey, hey, ” I said. “I’m trying to interview him. Just a minute, okay? “

The man began to say something about how of course I was interviewing the Obama people when suddenly, from behind us, the sound of a pro-Obama rap song came blaring out of the windows of a dorm building. We all turned our heads to see Obama signs in the windows.

This was met with curses, screams and chants of “U.S.A” by McCain-Palin folks who crowded under the windows trying to drown it out and yell at the person playing the stereo.

It was a moment of levity in an otherwise very tense situation and so I let out a gentle chuckle and shook my head.

“Oh, you think that ‘s funny?! ” the large bearded man said. His face was turning red. “Yeah, that ‘s real funny…” he said.

And then he kicked the back of leg, buckling my right knee and sending me sprawling onto the ground.

(This is from a post at the Daily Kos because I can’t get to Joe’s post. Read the whole thing there.)

I asked Joe about it today. He still wonders if he should have tried to get the guy arrested, but he didn’t then because the guy had vanished into the crowd, and Joe knew that Palin was the story, not some reporter. Even so, he was harassed by people who read his account for weeks afterward. Some suggested he deserved it; others think he made it up.

“Threats I’d have shrugged off or laughed about in the mid 2000s now make me really take caution and watch my step,” Joe said today. “Political rallies, particularly, feel like potentially dangerous places.”

That’s coming from a guy who was arrested in 2016 in the legislative building as he was trying to do his job as a reporter during a protest.

The late Mark Binker wrote this about the Palin incident:
After today I’m wondering – and this is just wondering at this point – whether Republicans aren’t in some respect giving their supporters license for this sort of crap. If the story you peddle is that your guys are the good guys and all those who stand against them are the bad guys, and the “liberal media” is in that second column, might there be a message there – even if it is one that is misconstrued and carried to a stupid extreme in some cases?
He wrote that in 2008.