A BBC cameraman was violently shoved and abused during a Donald Trump rally in El Paso, Texas, on Monday night, in an incident the corporation described as “unacceptable”.
The BBC’s Washington correspondent Gary O’Donoghue said his colleague Ron Skeans was “fine” despite the “incredibly violent attack”.
The BBC said it had written to the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, to ask for a review of security at Trump’s rallies.
Sanders said in a statement on Tuesday: “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.”
The press freedom group Reporters Without Borders said they were “deeply concerned” by the attack. “As we continue to look into what happened, we firmly denounce all physical violence against reporters for doing their jobs. This is unacceptable in the country of the first amendment,” the group said in a tweet.
Footage from Skeans’ camera, tweeted by O’Donoghue, suggested he and his equipment were knocked off balance for around 10 seconds, as he was filming Trump’s speech. Skeans recovered to film a man in a red Make America Great Again cap being restrained and shouting: “Fuck the media.”
As he was led away some in the crowd at the rally could be heard chanting: “Let him go.”
O’Donoghue said a Trump supporter got on to a media platform and pushed the camera into his colleague, before continuing to push Skeans.
The cameraman told the BBC that he was caught unawares by a “very hard shove”, adding: “I didn’t know what was going on.”
O’Donoghue told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It was an incredibly violent attack. Fortunately our cameraman is fine, he is made of stern stuff.”
A BBC spokeswoman said Skeans was “violently pushed and shoved by a member of the crowd” as he covered the rally. “The man was removed by security and Ron is fine. The president could see the incident and checked with us that all was OK,” she said. “It is clearly unacceptable for any of our staff to be attacked for doing their job.”
O’Donoghue said the goading of the crowds against the media is a “constant feature of these rallies”. “I have been spat at before, they hurl abuse at American colleagues in particular,” he added.
The Democratic congressman Eric Swalwell of California said he would reintroduce a bill making it a federal crime to assault a working journalist in certain situations.
“This is what happens when a President calls a #FreePress the ‘enemy of the people’ and whips his rallies into a frenzy. Assaults must not be tolerated,” he said in a tweet.
The American president has a strained relationship with the media. He has often branded reporting he doesn’t like as “fake news” and said that journalists are enemies of the people.
In August last year United Nations experts warned that Trump’s anti-media invective increased the risk of journalists being targeted with violence. In October he used a campaign speech to attack what he called media “hostility” after a wave of pipe bombs were sent to senior Democrats, prominent critics and the broadcaster CNN.
During his speech on Monday night Trump exaggerated the number of people attending the event, something his administration also did after his inauguration ceremony.
Trump told the crowds inside El Paso County Coliseum that 69,000 people had signed up to attend. “The arena holds 8,000 and, thank you fire department, they got in about 10 [thousand],” he said. “But if you really want to see something, go outside. Tens of thousands of people are watching screens outside.”
According to reports, a spokesman for El Paso fire department said the president’s claim was incorrect, and that only 6,500 people were allowed inside – the building’s capacity.