President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly denounced the press as the “enemy” of the American people, offered condolences Friday and pledged to fight violence in America after the deadly shooting at the Capital Gazette office in Annapolis.
The president called Thursday’s attack “horrific,” and said it “shocked the conscience of our nation and filled our hearts with grief.”
“Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their jobs,” Trump said from the White House Friday during an event to mark the six-month anniversary of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Killed in the attack were editor and columnist Rob Hiaasen, 59; Wendi Winters, 65, a community correspondent who headed special publications; editorial page editor Gerald Fischman, 61; editor and sports writer John McNamara, 56; and Rebecca Smith, 34, a sales assistant.
Two staff members, Rachael Pacella and Janel Cooley, were injured in the attack. They have been released from the hospital.
Jarrod Warren Ramos, 38, has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder.
“To the families of the victims, there are no words to express our sorrow for your loss,” the president said. “Horrible, horrible event, a horrible thing happened. In your suffering we pledge our eternal support. The suffering is so great — I have seen some of the people — so great.
“My government will not rest until we have done everything in our power to reduce violent crime and to protect innocent life. We will not ever leave your side, so our warmest, best wishes and regrets.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also commented on the attack.
"Journalists tell the stories of our communities, protect democracy, & often put their lives on the line just to do their jobs," Trudeau tweeted in English and French. "Today's attack in Annapolis is devastating. Our hearts go out to all the victims & their families."
Trump has had a complicated relationship with the press, using the media for decades to promote himself, but attacking reports he dislikes as "fake news" and denouncing journalists as the “enemy” of the American people.
He tweeted a video clip last summer that depicted him tackling and pummeling an opponent whose head had been covered with a CNN logo. He added the hashtags "#FraudNewsCNN" and "#FNN."
CNN accused the president of encouraging violence.
“It is a sad day when the President of the United States encourages violence against reporters," it said.
Hours after the shooting Thursday, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters asked if she was concerned that the president's criticism of the press might threaten journalists.
“There is no room for violence, and we stick by that,” she said. “Violence is never tolerated in any form, no matter whom it is against."