Critics of President Trump said Thursday he bore blame for the shooting deaths of five people at a community newspaper in Maryland, saying his tough talk toward the press created the environment for the gunman to launch his attack.
Capital Gazette reporters appeared to poke a hole in those accusations, saying the gunman specifically targeted their newspaper for a feud dating back at least to 2012, when he filed a defamation lawsuit against the paper for its coverage of a court case against him.
Police also chimed in.
“This was a targeted attack on the Capital Gazette,” said acting Anne Arundel County Police Chief William Krampf. “This person was prepared today to come in. He was prepared to shoot people.”
The Baltimore Sun, which owns the Capital Gazette, identified the suspected gunman as Jarrod W. Ramos, whose lawsuit against the paper had been rejected by several courts.
The revelations put a dent in the vitriol that had been fired at Mr. Trump in the hours after the shooting.
The self-styled “resistance” group Occupy Democrats immediately blamed Mr. Trump late Thursday afternoon, without a suspect or a motive officially stated.
“Just three nights ago at a rally in South Carolina, Trump pointed at the journalists in the back of the room and shouted ‘they are the enemy of the people.’ Today a mass shooter killed at least four journalists in Maryland,” the group tweeted, breaking into all capital letters for “Trump has blood on his hands.”
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, also said Mr. Trump deserved blame.
“This is a nightmare … the demonization of the press leading to a shooting of the Press … Just horrible!!!!” she tweeted.
At least one member of the press agreed with her. Andrew Feinberg, a White House correspondent for Breakfast Media, who regularly attends press briefings at the White House, tweeted to Mr. Trump, “You caused this, Mr. President.”
Since his inauguration, Mr. Trump has accused the press of being an “enemy of the people” and the crowds at his pep rallies frequently boo reporters and break into chants such as “CNN sucks.” He also frequently dismisses negative stories about himself as “fake news.”
The White House rejected suggestions that Mr. Trump fueled the shooting.
Lindsay Walters, a spokeswoman for the president, told reporters that the president believes there is “no room for violence” in America.
“The White House and the president, and you’ve heard press secretary Sarah Sanders, say there is no room for violence, and we stick by that,” Ms. Walters said. “Violence is never tolerated in any form, no matter whom it is against. There is no room for violence in our country.”
Mrs. Sanders, who has had a contentious relationship with the White House press corps and was the victim of a restaurant snub last week that kicked off days of national debate about civility, echoed similar sentiments on Twitter.
“Strongly condemn the evil act of senseless violence in Annapolis, MD,” she said. “A violent attack on innocent journalists doing their job is an attack on every American. Our prayers are with the victims and their friends and families.”
Numerous liberals on social media, including Shaun King of Black Lives Matter and feminist Jessica Valenti, also pointed their fingers at conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos.
Mr. Yiannopolous reportedly sent Davis Richardson, a reporter for The Observer, and Daily Beast reporter Will Sommer, text messages saying: “I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight.”
Mr. Yiannopoulos backtracked from those comments shortly after the gunman opened fire in the Capital Gazette newsroom, saying he was merely trolling hostile journalists. But even as he tried to walk back his statement, he still accused the press of blowing the comments out of proportion.
“You’re about to see a raft of news stories claiming that I am responsible or inspiring the deaths of journalists,” Mr. Yiannopolous wrote in a Facebook post. “The truth, as always is, the opposite of what the media tells you.
“I sent a troll about ‘vigilante death squads’ as a *private* response to a few hostile journalists who were asking me for comment, basically as a way of saying, ‘F—- off.’ and they published it,” he continued. “Amazed they were pretending to take my joke as a ‘threat,’ I reposted these stories on Instagram to mock them — and to make it clear that I wasn’t being serious.”
Meanwhile, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat who survived gun violence, called on Congress to take action to reduce the number of mass shootings.
“Reporters shouldn’t have to hide from gunfire while doing their jobs,” she said in a statement.
“A summer intern in the newsroom shouldn’t have to tweet for help. We shouldn’t have to live in a country where our lawmakers refuse to take any action to address this uniquely American crisis that’s causing so much horror and heartbreak on what feels like a daily basis.”
She added that lawmakers “time and time again … have failed to show the courage we need to keep us safe.”
Ms. Giffords demanded that Congress ban bump stocks, devices that can make a legal semi-automatic weapon shoot like a banned fully automatic weapon. Police described the weapon used in the attack as “a long gun” and did not say whether a bump stock was used. Police said the weapon used in the shooting was a shotgun.
• Dave Boyer contributed to this article.
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