The Slatest

Trump Cheers Supporters Who Harassed Reporter at Anti-Lockdown Protest: “Great People”

Protesters hold signs during the Re-Open America rally on May 1, 2020 in Commack, New York.
Protesters hold signs during the a reopen America rally on May 1 in Commack, New York. Al Bello/Getty Images

When Kevin Vesey, a reporter with News 12 Long Island, posted a video of what he experienced at an anti-lockdown protest in Commack, New York, earlier this week, he likely would have never imagined that none other than the president of the United States would tweet it approvingly. And not just once, but twice, pretty much endorsing the way his supporters all too often harass reporters at protests. If you haven’t seen it yet, Vesey’s video is shocking in its rawness. The reporter films as demonstrators, many of whom are wearing Trump paraphernalia, take part in the small protest and repeatedly heckle him and outright insult him as he walks among them. At one point, a maskless protester gets close to Vesey. “I think you need to back away,” Vesey can be heard saying in the video. “No, I’ve got hydroxychloroquine,” the protester says as he continues to approach Vesey. “I’m fine.”

The video, which was posted on Thursday, immediately spread like wildfire on social media. “I’ll probably never forget what happened today,” Vesey later wrote. “I was insulted. I was berated. I was practically chased by people who refused to wear masks in the middle of a pandemic. All the while, I was there to tell THEIR story.” He also posted the edited story that ended up airing.

While many of those who shared the video were sympathetic to the reporter, others cheered the protesters on. Even as some cheered them on, the pro-Trump group that organized the protest, the Setauket Patriots, later apologized to Vesey and distanced itself from the harassers. “We can tell you that the few who decided to Harass you and try to prevent you from doing your job are not members or affialiated with the Setauket patriots group in any way, shape or form,” the group wrote on Facebook. “We were looking foward to you giving us fair coverage with what you documented when we first arrived. But as with all mass rally events you will always get a few idiots to disrupt an otherwise peaceful, pleasant demonstration and they should have been removed by Police.”

On Friday night, though, the country’s most powerful man joined those praising the protesters who had made it difficult for Vesey to do his job. “FAKE NEWS IS NOT ESSENTIAL!” Trump tweeted as he shared the video. On Saturday, the president again shared the video, which includes a protester giving the reporter the finger, while he praised the demonstrators as “great people!”

Vesey first responded to the president retweeting his video with one word: “Unreal.” On Saturday, Vesey pointed out he was retweeted twice by the president. “This video has really struck a chord,” he wrote. The tweets marked the latest instance of the president expressing support for the anti-lockdown protesters even as the rhetoric in the demonstrations appears to be growing increasingly more violent.