Several exterior windows were shot out at the offices of the Lexington Herald-Leader, the second largest newspaper in Kentucky. Police suspect a small-caliber gun was used to carry out the attack.
Two days later, Texas Governor Greg Abbott threatened to shoot reporters. Incidentally, the governor of Kentucky complained about the Herald-Leader last week and called it “fake news.” Not only are these incidents bad in and of themselves, this type of behavior could embolden others to carry out violent acts against the press.
Lexington Police and the publisher of the Herald-Leader are politely calling this latest-incident “vandalism,” reports on the Abbott threat called it a “joke,” and Gianforte has apologized and called his assault on a reporter a “mistake,” but those aren’t the terms we should be using for these growing threats of violence against reporters.
According to Webster’s New World College Dictionary the definition of terrorism is as follows:
Terrorism: the act of terrorizing; use of force or threats to demoralize, intimidate, and subjugate, esp. such use as a political weapon or policy.
What we are witnessing isn’t harassment, it isn’t a series of mistakes, and it isn’t a backlash against the press. We are witnessing politically motivated acts and threats of terrorism against the press in an effort to weaken freedom of the press in this country.
In less than one week we’ve gone from a body slam, to a threat to shoot, to actual shooting. This is escalating quickly. It is worrisome and disturbing — not just for journalists — but for everyone whom the first amendment protects.