President Trump: Journalists should be free from fear of violent attacks

“This attack shocked the conscience of our nation and filled our hearts with grief,” Trump said at a White House event celebrating his tax-cut law. “Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job.”

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Trump vowed his administration “will not rest until we have done everything in our power to reduce violent crime and to protect innocent life.”

He also extended condolences to the families of the victims, offering “our warmest, best wishes and regrets.”

The comments were Trump’s first in-person response to Thursday’s deadly shooting, which left five employees dead at the paper’s Annapolis newsroom.

He ignored reporters’ questions about the shooting on Thursday afternoon while returning to the White House, but shortly after the attack tweeted that his “thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”

Later on Friday, the president added, “I have a lot of respect for the press. Some of the greatest people I know are reporters.”

Critics have accused the president of fanning hostility toward the news media in a dangerous way.

Trump has frequently called journalists the “enemy of the people” and has attacked individual reporters at raucous campaign rallies and on his Twitter account as “fake news.”

At the conclusion of Friday’s event, CNN’s Jim Acosta, a frequent Trump target, asked the president whether he would stop using the “enemy of the people” moniker against the press. But Trump did not appear to hear the shouted question over cheers and applause from the crowd.

One man in the back row next to the media area turned around and tried to shush Acosta by gesturing with his finger over his mouth.

White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters on Thursday dismissed the notion that Trump’s rhetoric is in any way linked to the shooting.

“There is no room for violence, and we stick by that,” she told reporters. “Violence is never tolerated in any form, no matter whom it is against. There is no room for violence in our country.”

Police say the suspected shooter, Jarrod Ramos, had a long-running dispute with the Capital Gazette over a column about a criminal harassment case against him. Ramos, 38, brought a defamation suit in 2012 against the paper, but it was thrown out by a judge.

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