MEDIA

C-SPAN Caller Threatens 'To Shoot' CNN Hosts Brian Stelter And Don Lemon

“They started the war. If I see ’em, I’m going to shoot ’em."
08/05/2018 04:26 PM ET
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Updated Aug 06, 2018

A supporter of President Donald Trump threatened “to shoot” CNN reporters Brian Stelter and Don Lemon during an on-air call with C-SPAN on Friday.

The caller’s threat comes amid repeated attacks on the media from Trump, who has described the press as “the enemy of the people” and “fake news.”

The caller, identified by C-SPAN host Greta Brawner as “Don from State College, Pennsylvania,” had phoned into her show Friday to express support for Trump’s criticism of the media.

“It all started when Trump got elected,” the caller said before falsely accusing the reporters of labeling all Trump supporters as racist. “[Stelter and Lemon] don’t even know us. They don’t even know these Americans out here and they’re calling us racist because we voted for Trump.”

“They started the war. If I see ’em, I’m going to shoot ’em. Bye,” he added before abruptly ending the call.

Stelter discussed the threat Sunday on CNN, pointing out that neither Lemon nor he has ever described all Trump supporters as “racist.” Stelter said he didn’t know why the caller felt this way, but noted that Fox News’ Sean Hannity played a clip during his show Thursday of Stelter asking whether racial anxiety played a factor in Trump’s rise.

“Obviously, researchers have proven that ― yes ― racial anxiety and resentment was a factor. But that’s not the same as calling all Trump supporters racist,” Stelter said on Sunday. “I don’t know if the C-SPAN caller watched Hannity. I’m not blaming Hannity. I just thought the timing was odd.”

Trump has adopted an increasingly hostile stance against the media since the 2016 presidential election. He ramped up his attacks against the press over the weekend, tweeting Friday night that Lemon was the “dumbest man on television” and tweeting Sunday that the media is “dangerous & sick” and can “cause War.”

C-SPAN’s Brawner did not acknowledge the caller’s threat during the live broadcast Friday. After the caller hung up, Brawner immediately reminded other callers to “turn down that television, and listen and talk through the phone.”

Brawner did not address the threat at the time because she did not hear the caller’s remarks, Howard Mortman, the network’s communications director, told HuffPost in an email Sunday. 

“If she had, she would have said something on air,” Mortman said before directing HuffPost to C-SPAN’s general policy on call-ins.

“When a caller makes ad hominem attacks or uses indecent language or obviously racist language, program hosts are certainly permitted to step in,” according to C-SPAN’s website. “Given that this involves quick judgment during a live television production, it’s an imperfect process.”

C-SPAN reported the caller’s remarks to the FBI on Friday, Mortman told HuffPost.

Trump’s anti-media rhetoric has drawn concern from lawmakers and journalists in newsrooms nationwide. The New York Times’ publisher A.G. Sulzberger told Trump during a meeting last month that the outlet had placed armed security guards outside its offices in response to an increase in threats against reporters.

A deadly attack in June against reporters at the Capital Gazette newsroom in Maryland did nothing to quell Trump’s belligerent accusations against the media. Since the shooting, which left five people dead, Trump has used Twitter to attack news outlets, reporters and the media generally over 25 times.

“I’m not asking for sympathy,” Stelter said Sunday. “I don’t think I’m in extreme danger. I know some of my colleagues get much worse threats than I do. CNN has a great security team and we know how to handle this stuff.”

“But these kinds of threats are coming in more often,” he warned.

The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

This story has been updated with comments from a C-SPAN spokesman.