The Hill’s Joe Concha noted on “America’s Newsroom” on Monday that the riots erupting across the country sparked by the death of George Floyd while in police custody present a “dangerous situation” for journalists and stressed that the “free press absolutely has to be able to do their job.”
Concha noted that The Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) said it has tallied more than 60 incidents in which journalists covering the protests were attacked, arrested or harassed by demonstrators or police over the past two days.
Concha pointed to several examples, including when an angry mob of rioters turned its rage on a Fox News crew early Saturday, chasing and pummeling the journalists outside the White House in a harrowing scene captured on video.
Veteran reporter Leland Vittert was covering protests in Lafayette Park just before1 a.m. with three crewmembers when as many as a dozen masked protesters surrounded them, in footage caught by the Daily Caller.
After a protester lunged at Vittert while he was reporting on-air, the team made a beeline out of the park, with the hostile and growing crowd in pursuit.
Vittert and the crew were punched and hit with projectiles as they fled, and a Fox News camera was broken when a member of the mob tried to grab it.
Vittert, who has been in countless tight spots during his 15-year career, including violent clashes in Egypt, Libya and the West Bank, war in Eastern Ukraine and coverage of the 2015 Baltimore riots following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, said the Saturday morning attack was “the most scared” he has been “since being chased out of Tahrir Square by a group from the Muslim Brotherhood.”
“This is a guy who has covered wars in Ukraine or the Baltimore riots in 2015 under the previous administration,” Concha pointed out.
Protests across the country have erupted after the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis cop, Derek Chauvin, was seen kneeling on his neck in a viral video.
Chauvin has been fired and charged with third-degree murder, and the federal Justice Department has been investigating the case. Crowds across the nation have seized on the racially charged incident to demand justice, but the protests have devolved into riots in many cities, culminating in a weekend of carnage.
“It’s not just on a national level, we’re seeing many local reporters and producers harassed or even injured as well, most notably Linda Tirado, she’s a freelance photojournalist in Minneapolis who was shot in the left eye by a rubber bullet,” Concha said. “Doctors now say she likely has lost vision in that eye permanently.”
He then pointed out that “many of these folks, and I’ve done it before on the local level in terms of producing and reporting, not a lot of money, not a lot of glory, just trying to do their jobs and telling the story and instead they’re being harassed whether it be by protesters, anarchists, or police, and this is something that cannot continue and must stop.”
Fox News’ Julia Musto and Greg Wilson contributed to this report.