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On Tuesday afternoon, a gunman opened fire at the offices of the Capital Gazette, a local newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, an hour outside Washington, D.C. Reporters at the Gazette said the shooter shot through a glass window at the office and reloaded his weapon at least once. Five people were killed and multiple people were injured.
While authorities have not released a motive, the attack—the 154st mass shooting in 2018, according to the Gun Violence Archive—came in the wake of incendiary and anti-media comments made by President Donald Trump and prominent conservative personalities.
At a campaign-style rally in South Carolina this week, Trump reignited his “enemy of the people” moniker for the media,, which he first used in 2017. Elsewhere this week, right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos told the Observer that he couldn’t wait for “vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight.”
Within the minutes of the attack, people online pointed out the timing of their comments in relation to the shooting.
Horrific.— Joshua Holland 🔥 (@JoshuaHol) June 28, 2018
Just two days after Milo Yiannopoulos called for “vigilante squads” to shoot journalists. https://t.co/sQiyoP6Ql2
Gutted about the shooting at the Capital Gazette, but am reminded in 2018, not everyone will be universally horrified that journalists are hurt or killed— Kim Bellware (@bellwak) June 28, 2018
Note: Milo Yiannopoulos just 2 days ago: “I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight”
YESTERDAY: Trump supporter Milo Yiannopoulos, “I can’t wait for vigilante squads to start gunning down journalists.”— Ryan Knight ☘️ (@ProudResister) June 28, 2018
TODAY: Journalists gunned down at the offices of a newspaper in Annapolis.
Is the media ready yet to talk about the VIOLENCE Trump is inciting in America?
Two days ago the President called the media the enemy. Two days ago Milo Yiannopoulos told people to start gunning down journalists. Today an active shooter fires inside the Capital Gazette leaving journalists and others dead. How can any of you support these people?— Faizal Khamisa (@SNFaizalKhamisa) June 28, 2018
Milo Yiannopoulos was heard. Disgusting.— RATHER INCOGNITO (@POLILLITAM) June 28, 2018
In response, Yiannopoulos posted on Facebook that he blamed the Observer and the Daily Beast for publishing his “vigilante death squads” quote—claiming it was a “joke.”
“If there turns out to be any dimension to this crime related to my private, misreported remarks, the responsibility for that lies squarely and wholly with the Beast and the Observer for drumming up fake hysteria about a private joke, and with the verified liberals who pretended they thought I was serious,” he wrote around 4pm on Thursday.
However, he had posted the headlines to Instagram. The company removed them before the shooting, claiming they violated its terms of service.
Milo Yiannopoulos uploaded screenshots of a text message exchange we had to Instagram, wherein he appeared to threaten me with the following warning: "I can't wait for vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight."— Davis Richardson (@DavisOliverR) June 28, 2018
Instagram has since removed the posts. https://t.co/WeEEdV34PJ
As news of the attack came to light, the White House said in a statement that “our thoughts and prayers are with all that are affected.” Around 5pm ET on Thursday, Trump said his “thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families” regarding the Capital Gazette shooting.
Prior to departing Wisconsin, I was briefed on the shooting at Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. Thank you to all of the First Responders who are currently on the scene.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 28, 2018
For some, Trump’s tweet rang hollow.
Trump has been criticized for the rhetoric he uses to describe the press, with some experts believing it could lead to an escalation of violence. CNN’s Jim Acosta was on the receiving end of vitriol from those in attendance of the South Carolina rally.
Trump calls the free press “the enemy of the American people” and today people died because our leader encourages violence against those who oppose him.— Ryan Pennsylvania from EPCOT (@DarthDuck415) June 28, 2018
The blood in Annapolis is on his hands.
@realDonaldTrump hasn't tweeted condolences yet even though many already have. I suspect that's because he knows it's a supporter who took action on what he's been screaming at them for 2 years. "The FAKE NEWS is the enemy of the American People!" #Maryland— Terry McGurrin (@standupmonkey) June 28, 2018
So, @realDonaldTrump calls the media the "greatest enemy of the American people", @UKIP's Milo Yiannopoulos "can't wait for vigilante squads to start gunning down journalists" and now this Maryland shooting happened. This was just a matter of time so don't act surprised.— SaeS De Honos (@SaesDeHonos) June 28, 2018
Not just Milo. But the president, too. The fact that Trump has consistently trashed news networks for not sucking up to him, saying they're "not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People" should be a cause of deep concern for anyone who believes in a functioning press.— Mehreen Kasana (@mehreenkasana) June 28, 2018
That said, Fox News pundit Sean Hannity blamed Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) for the shooting in light of her comments earlier this week where she called on supporters to confront members of the Trump administration in public places. “I’ve been saying now for days that something horrible was going to happen because of the rhetoric. Really Maxine?” Hannity said, according to Media Matters for America.
No motive for the attack has been released by authorities, but the troubling response from far-right trolls, as seen on Twitter, 4chan, and the pro-Trump Reddit forum r/The_Donald reveals the damaging effect Trump’s war on the media has had.
The alt-right has been rooting for violence against journalists for years. Now that blood has been spilled in Annapolis, these guys could't happier. pic.twitter.com/2Fo2f4MJr3— Michael Edison Hayden (@MichaelEHayden) June 28, 2018
Top two comments in r/The_donald's post on the Annapolis shooting.— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) June 28, 2018
"Here we go! Right on time!"
"so it begins" pic.twitter.com/MrfZuZqSQm
One thing’s clear at this point: Regardless of what the motive is, the damage is already done.
Disclosure: The Daily Dot acquired The Kernel, a publication founded by Milo Yiannopoulos, in 2014.
Andrew Wyrich is a politics staff writer for the Daily Dot, covering the intersection of politics and the internet. Andrew has written for USA Today, NorthJersey.com, and other newspapers and websites. His work has been recognized by the Society of the Silurians, Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE), and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).