A BBC cameraman was physically assaulted at a campaign rally President Donald Trump was holding at El Paso County Coliseum in Texas.
Ron Skeans was covering the rally on Monday night when a Trump supporter wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat managed to infiltrate the press area. The assailant shoved Skeans and swore at other members of the media before being escorted from the scene, according to video footage from the event. The cameraman told the BBC he was caught unaware by a “very hard shove”.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” he said.
Skeans’ camera was focused on Trump when the attack took place. After falling, Skeans appears to pick his camera up off the floor before turning it on his attacker, who is seen shouting “f-ck the media” as he is led away. Some in the crowd could be heard chanting: “Let him go.”
Noticing the commotion, Trump stopped his speech to ask “Are you alright? Everything ok?” Before continuing with his speech, Trump flashed a thumbs up sign in Skeans’ direction.
On Tuesday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders issued a statement about the incident: “President Trump condemns all acts of violence against any individual or group of people – including members of the press. We ask that anyone attending an event do so in a peaceful and respectful manner. For questions around security at Trump campaign events please contact the campaign directly.”
Eleanor Montague, a BBC producer who was sitting close to Skeans during the rally, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that it was “an incredibly violent attack” and “fortunately our cameraman is fine, he is made of stern stuff.”
Another BBC colleague, Gary O’Donoghue, told the same show that such attacks are “a constant feature of these rallies — a goading of the crowds against the media.”
“It is clearly unacceptable for any of our staff to be attacked for doing their job,” said a BBC spokesperson. The El Paso police department told TIME it was “still gathering” information. The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for a comment.
The White House Correspondents’ Association condemned the attack. “We are relieved that, this time, no one was seriously hurt. The president of the United States should make absolutely clear to his supporters that violence against reporters is unacceptable,” said WHCA President, Olivier Knox in a statement.
Video footage from the rally shows the President pointing out the press to the crowd who boo in response. Trump has frequently been critical of the press at rallies and on social media.
In August last year, Trump described reporters present at one of his rallies as “horrible, horrendous people,” before criticizing the press as “fake, fake, disgusting news”. Days earlier, two UN experts described how the U.S. President’s fiery rhetoric “increase[s] the risk of journalists being targeted with violence.” He also previously praised a member of congress who assaulted a reporter and on Twitter has called the media “the true enemy of the people.”