Trump recently denied Annapolis, Md., Mayor Gavin Buckley’s request to lower all American flags to half-staff in honor of the journalists killed in last week’s Capital Gazette shooting. Less than 24 hours after the Baltimore Sun reported that the mayor’s request had been denied, Trump reversed course, ordering all U.S. flags to be lowered.
On Friday, the day after the shooting, Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan ordered all Maryland state flags lowered to half-staff for the entire weekend. Buckley said, “It’s not as noticeable when a state flag is down but you still have your main flags at full mast.” So, he put in a request to the White House for all U.S. flags to be lowered to half-staff in the hopes that it would help keep national attention on the attack.
Buckley’s request was initially denied by the White House and he responded, “Obviously, I’m disappointed, you know? … Is there a cutoff for tragedy? This was an attack on the press. It was an attack on freedom of speech. It’s just as important as any other tragedy.” Recently, Trump has ordered U.S. flags to be lowered to half-staff following the mass shootings at high schools in Texas and Florida, as well as the shootings in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas. Basically, Trump has deemed every other shooting a national tragedy … except for the one in which journalists were killed.
The White House reversed its decision today and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she called Buckley on Tuesday morning to inform him of the new decision. All U.S. flags will be lowered until sunset Tuesday in remembrance of the five victims at the Capital Gazette. The White House statement read, “Our Nation shares the sorrow of those affected by the shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland. Americans across the country are united in calling upon God to be with the victims and to bring aid and comfort to their families and friends.” At the bottom, the statement bears Trump’s presumably reluctant signature.
The gesture is far less meaningful after Trump denied Buckley’s original request and had to be shamed into honoring the victims of a mass shooting. This is far from Trump’s first attack on the free press, although it is the most insensitive and heartless one. Trump is constantly speaking and tweeting about the “Fake News Media” in an attempt to discredit the free press.
Following the mass shooting, Trump stated, “Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job.” But let’s not forget this is a man who has openly promoted violence against the press in the past, such as when he tweeted this:
Trump has an extensive history of attacking the press and his targets include every media outlet that isn’t Fox News. It just so happens that Fox News host Sean Hannity and Trump have a very close relationship. Overall, Trump’s response to the Capital Gazette shooting is just another attack on the free press that further incites violence against journalists. He was late to issue a statement following the Thursday shooting, he refused to honor the five journalists whose lives were taken until forced to do so, and he is promoting vicious violence against the free press on Twitter the day before U.S. flags are lowered because of that exact sort of violence.
“It’s a horrible situation, but I think it’s the least respect we could give the journalists,” Mayor Buckley said of Trump’s reversal. “It’s a little bit of comfort.”