Donald Trump, who has referred to the news media on his Twitter feed as “an enemy of the American people,” has refused a request to lower flags on federal buildings to half-mast in memory of the five Capital Gazette newspaper employees slain in last week’s mass shooting in the paper’s newsroom, according to a report on the Capital Gazette‘s own site.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed, you know?” Annapolis, Maryland, Mayor Gavin Buckley, who made the request of Trump, said on Monday. “Is there a cutoff for tragedy? This was an attack on the press. It was an attack on freedom of speech. It’s just as important as any other tragedy.”
The employees murdered in the attack included four journalists and a sales assistant. According to the Baltimore Sun, the victims were “Rob Hiaasen, 59, a former feature writer for The Baltimore Sun who joined the Capital Gazette in 2010 as an assistant editor and columnist; Wendi Winters, 65, a community correspondent who headed special publications; Gerald Fischman, 61, the editorial page editor; John McNamara, 56, a staff writer who had covered high school, college and professional sports for decades; and Rebecca Smith, 34, a sales assistant hired in November.”
Buckley told the Capital that he had considered ordering the lowering of flags in Annapolis despite Trump’s refusal, but his wife talked him out if it.
“At this point in time, it would start to polarize people and I don’t want to make people angry,” Buckley told the Capital, explaining his decision not to lower flags in the city.
Police have charged 38-year-old Jarrod Ramos, a local resident who held a long-standing and bitter grudge against the Capital Gazette, in the shooting attack. As the Inquisitr reported, Ramos had sued the paper over an article that described his year-long online harassment and stalking campaign against a woman he had known years earlier in high school.
Ramos had posted a message on his Twitter account, which was dedicated almost entirely to attacking the Capital Gazette and its reporters, that warned the paper over a criticism of Trump, saying cryptically that it could “end badly” for the paper.
Though Trump publicly called the Capital Gazette shooting a “horrible, horrible event” and expressed support for the victims, in private he has told associates that he believes that what he called “the fake news” would blame him and his fiercely anti-press rhetoric for sparking the shooting, according to a report by The Daily Beast.
Indeed, many of Trump’s critics saw a connection between his verbal attacks on journalists and the massacre allegedly carried out by Ramos.
Just one day after the mass shooting, Trump’s reelection campaign sent out a press release attacking “the fake news media,” the Pluralist reported.
On Sunday, reporters at the Capital Gazette published an open letter thanking supporters in the wake of the mass shooting, while at the same time criticizing Trump, saying, “We won’t forget being called an enemy of the people,” The Hill reported.
The Capital Gazette staffers also said that after the shooting they had received hostile messages celebrating the murders of journalists.
“Here’s what else we won’t forget: Death threats and emails from people we don’t know celebrating our loss, or the people who called for one of our reporters to get fired because she got angry and cursed on national television after witnessing her friends getting shot,” the Capital Gazette staff members wrote. “No, we won’t forget that. Because exposing evil, shining light on wrongs and fighting injustice is what we do.”
The White House has not yet offered a comment regarding Trump’s refusal to lower the flags in memory of the slain newspaper reporters, the Capital Gazette reported.