In the latest example of violence fueled by Donald Trump's words, a woman spewing the former president's anti-media rhetoric attacked a reporter at the Colorado Statehouse this week.
Pat Poblete, a legislative reporter for Colorado Politics, was in the press room at the Capitol on Tuesday when the incident occurred, Denver alt-weekly Westword reports: "While Poblete wasn't injured and ultimately declined to ask that the woman be charged with assault — or for stealing items belonging to one of his reporting colleagues, Marianne Goodland — he's troubled that she appears to have acted out because she believes the terrible things said about the media by ex-President Donald Trump, whose rhetoric she spouted during her violent outburst."
Poblete told Westword: "This wasn't the sort of hyper-online, hyper-partisan, QAnon, deep-dive type of person who's ingrained in this stuff. This was just a woman who'd heard what the former president said about journalists and took that to heart. Even at that level of information and intake, it's still penetrating the public psyche."
Media advocates have long warned that Trump's rhetoric could lead to violence. In 2019, New York Times CEO Mark Thompson told CNBC: "Describing journalists from the Times and elsewhere as 'enemies of the people' and using extreme rhetoric about journalism, I think, is dangerous. It could encourage people to do crazy things in relation to news organizations and individual reporters."
Later that year, CNN's Jim Acosta reported that Trump's anti-media rhetoric had gotten out of control.
"If Trump is removed from office in any way, you are dead,' read one message posted on my Instagram account," Acosta wrote. "Self-described Trump supporters have left messages recommending that I be castrated, decapitated and set on fire. Theirs was the same kind of hatred that had driven Trump supporter Cesar Sayoc to send pipe bombs to CNN and Democratic targets shortly before the midterm elections in 2018. His vivid threats directed at me on Twitter went undetected until authorities captured him."
On Twitter, Poblete issued a plea: "We can do better. We MUST do better."
"To leaders and those with a platform: please choose your words carefully," Poblete wrote. "The woman who attacked me and attempted to make off with @MGoodland 's property was set off when she found out she was in the press room and echoed the rhetoric the former president directed at journalists.
"To my colleagues in the journalism industry: thank you for what you do," he added. "This probably isn't the first story like this you've heard and unfortunately it probably won't be the last. In the face of that, you push on. You continue the vital work of bringing sunlight to the darkest corners of your communities. We as a society are in your debt."
Poblete thanked the Colorado State Police for their response, and reiterated that he's fine — at least physically.
"Mentally is a different story and the what if's are haunting me. What if I was seriously hurt? What if she had a weapon? What if it was a gun? What if, instead of a 5'4 woman, it was an assailant the same height and weight as me?" he wrote. "Regardless of what you think about me or my profession, those are the type of questions that no one deserves to have hanging over their head. No one deserves to be physically assaulted because of their line of work. We can do better. We MUST do better."
Read his full thread below.