By Barbara Starr CNN Pentagon Correspondent
(CNN) — Some unsettling recent incidents suggest violence against journalists — and claims that it’s just a joke — is gaining ground as a “new normal” for reporters. Howard Altman, who covers military affairs for the Tampa Bay Times, reported Saturday that Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn made what Buckhorn thought was a “joke” at a military conference attended by special operations troops, commanders and industry. While riding on a military boat as part of a demonstration during a special operations forces industry conference last May, Buckhorn, a Democrat, was allowed to fire blanks from a machine gun, “and so the first place I point that gun is at the media,” the mayor told the crowd. “I’ve never seen grown men cry like little girls, for when that gun goes off those media folks just hit the deck like no one’s business. It’s great pay-back. I love it.”
The sometimes-adversarial relationship between journalists and the leaders they cover — and joking references thereof — is nothing new; some would say it’s even necessary, as Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush have in recent months.
But is Buckhorn’s attempt to draw laughs funny? Of late, maybe not so much. This week, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly was caught on a hot mic joking with President Donald Trump about a ceremonial saber the President received after giving a commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy — a speech that was laced with references to being treated “unfairly,” “especially by the media.”
“You can use that on the press,” Kelly told the President, who responded laughingly, “Yeah, that’s right.” A DHS official later said Kelly’s remark clearly was a joke. Journalists, of course, are no strangers to gallows humor and might once have laughed along. But Trump’s unrelenting criticism of the media and divisive rhetoric at rallies — which during the campaign included hostility and violence directed at protestors and journalists — seem to have engendered a creeping permissiveness about such attitudes among his followers, those looking to vent their hatred, and now, apparently, even those in government, which should give everyone pause.
This week, longtime defense writer John Donnelly of CQ Roll Call, which covers federal government, says he was pinned against a wall by security guards at the Federal Communications Commission while trying to pose a question to Commissioner Michael O’Rielly after a news conference. (Ironically, Donnelly is the respected chair of the National Press Club’s press freedom efforts.)
Democratic Sens. Tom Udall of New Mexico and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire have written the FCC asking for answers. Their letter said, in part, that the incident at the FCC “is not an isolated one and seems to be part of a larger pattern of hostility towards the press characteristic of this administration, which underscores our serious concern.”
But Secretary Kelly is a recently retired four-star Marine Corps general who has served on the front lines, lost his son in combat and personally knows journalists injured on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. Buckhorn, meanwhile, enjoys a good relationship with his local press corps, and Tampa is home to both the US Central Command, which runs the wars in the Middle East, and the US Special Operations Command, which oversees units like Seal Team Six and Delta Force, which do not ride around firing blanks. Troops from both those commands repeatedly have gone out of their way over the years to help journalists stay safe on the front lines. So, is the press corps just too sensitive? Has it lost its sense of humor? Journalists who cover the military know the heavy price that has been paid by our colleagues in recent years. We’ve lost friends. We have colleagues who struggle with grievous battlefield injuries, including amputations, severe burns, brain injuries and post-traumatic stress — all for just doing their jobs.
The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that 1,237 journalists have been killed around the world since 1992. Every journalist I know would like to see less tragedy for reporters as well as the civilians caught in the middle of the conflicts they cover. And that is no joke.
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Five years ago, Tessier made good on that promise while helping to organize the Nashua chapter of Veterans Count, a program of Easterseals New Hampshire that helps soldiers and their families before they are deployed, during deployment and when they return home.
“Veterans won’t ask for help – they are trained to get things done,” said Tessier, a city native who served five tours in Vietnam. “We have a very high population of veterans in New Hampshire and a lot of them fall through the cracks.”
Next month, Tessier will receive a 2017 Granite State Legacy Award for his charitable work, which helped raise about $1.6 million in the past five years to help veterans. The award celebrates the accomplishments of the state’s most distinguished citizens who have given the most to New Hampshire through business, philanthropy, politics and more. Tessier, 70, is a partner with the financial services firm Weisman, Tessier, Lambert & Halloran.
His work with Veterans Count, alongside Sy Mahfuz, owner of the Persian Rug Gallery, has become a model for other states looking to form similar Veterans Count initiatives.
“My guidance counselor in high school told me I would never amount to anything. That is when I decided to join the military,” Tessier said. “When you are young you just do it – you don’t really think about it.”
Tessier spent 18 months at a nuclear missile base in Tucson, Ariz., and with strategic air command and security. His father served in World War II and his grandfather served in World War I.
“I thought it was my turn. I thought I was doing what I was supposed to do,” said Tessier, a member of the Air Force 377th Security Police Squadron that fought in the Battle for Tan Son Nhut, one of the largest ground battles in U.S. history.
“But I was scared to death to come home,” he said. “There, in Vietnam, I had responsibilities and respect. Coming back home and the thought of college seemed more difficult to me than war.”
Tessier eventually graduated from New Hampshire College while working as a security guard at the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Merrimack. He worked at other positions before eventually realizing his passion for financial services.
“I just decided to work my tail off to build a practice. Now, I do what I enjoy. I am not afraid to take on a challenge,” he said. One challenge, presented to him five years ago, sought to raise $100,000 for Veterans Count and was met with eagerness and determination.
Tessier said he thought about his 3-year-old brother, who died from leukemia while Tessier was deployed.
“I didn’t get to go home to his funeral,” he said, adding there are families throughout New Hampshire that have similar stories and need assistance with financial struggles during times of deployment. Veterans Count offers critical services to military families, helps veterans transition into stable civilian careers, deal with combat injuries and face issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, Tessier said.
“My legacy, I guess, is just trying to make this place a better place to live and it is an ongoing and never-ending mission,” he said. “I have one speed – full blast, and sometimes that can be detrimental.”
The Granite State Legacy Awards are given to New Hampshire residents who have made significant contributions over an extended period to their profession, community and state. Presented by the New Hampshire Union Leader and sponsored by Eastern Bank, the annual awards program was launched in 2012. The New Hampshire Union Leader and Eastern Bank are proud to celebrate the accomplishments of these distinguished residents.
This year’s awards will be presented Wednesday evening, June 7, at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $45 and include hors d’oeuvres and cocktails.
Donald Trump’s re-election campaign says it set a one-day fundraising record Tuesday, the same day the Trump White House was rocked with yet more troubling disclosures about the investigation into possible ties between Trump officials and Russia.
According to a Wednesday statement from Donald J. Trump for President, the “combined total for May 17 for the campaign and its joint fundraising committee with the Republican National Committee exceeded $314,000, a new campaign record since Election Day, coming almost exclusively from small contributions.” The cash influx is in part a response to a series of fundraising emails the joint fundraising committee has sent out, trying to turn the latest developments in the Trump-Russia saga into a chance to rally its base and pad its campaign bank account.
The subject line for each email: “Sabotage.” In the first email, sent May 16, the campaign warns, “There are people within our own unelected bureaucracy that want to sabotage President Trump and our entire America First movement,” and then asks supporters to “contribute $1 to drain the swamp.” The second, sent Wednesday evening, claims that “The Fake News Media is working hand-in-hand with Washington s corrupt bureaucracy to try to slow and block our America First Agenda.” The fundraising requests don’t mention the furor over the president’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, followed by the news that the president asked Comey to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, but the campaign committee’s implication is clear: The scandals are just a distraction constructed by the Washington elite to undermine the president. Michael Glassner, the committee’s executive director, claimed in the statement that the fundraising haul demonstrates: The American people are with the President stronger than ever before.” Recent polls, however, show that’s not true. Rather, Trump’s approval ratings continue to sink, even among his core base of support. And compared with record one-day fundraising figures from past campaigns, $314,000 is hardly a notable sum. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, for example, raised more than $5 million the day after his victory in the New Hampshire Democratic primary in 2016. And a former congressman, Ron Paul, raised more than $6 million in 24 hours during his failed Republican presidential campaign in 2007.
Trump didn’t have much of a fundraising operation for most of his 2016 presidential run, relying instead on free media coverage and his own personal wealth. He was vastly outraised by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the general election. But Trump did prove to have significant pull among small donors typically a weakness of GOP candidates with cash from those giving less than $200 roughly doubling what he got from big donors.
- ^ Related: Trump Coast Guard Academy speech: With great ‘surety,’ president speaks about the horrible media (www.newsweek.com)
- ^ Subscribe to Newsweek from $1 per week (subscription.newsweek.com)
- ^ approval ratings (www.politico.com)
- ^ continue to sink (poll.qu.edu)
- ^ raised more than $5 million (berniesanders.com)
- ^ more than $6 million (usatoday30.usatoday.com)
- ^ vastly outraised (www.fec.gov)