Behind in the polls in every battleground state, there is a sense of desperation sinking in for President Trump and his increasingly angry supporters.
Trump twice retweeted video of his supporters angrily confronting a local news reporter on Long Island who was covering an anti-lockdown protest while being chased away by one of them who was not wearing facial covering.
‘Great people!’ the president wrote in his tweet sharing video of the incident from Thursday.
Kevin Vesey, a reporter for the television station News 12 Long Island, was taunted and scorned by protesters in the Suffolk County town of Commack on Thursday who were waving pro-Trump flags and holding signs slamming Governor Andrew Cuomo and the stay-at-home orders.
Hundreds of protesters gathered on Jericho Turnpike in Commack on Thursday after seeing a Facebook event organized by the Setauket Patriots, a right-wing organization that supports Trump.
But the rally generated significant social media attention because of the anger directed at the reporter, Vesey.
The news report and videos later posted on social media show several of the protesters – most of them without face coverings – berate Vesey by repeating many of Trump’s frequent criticisms of the press.
Vesey’s video shows protesters breaking social distancing guidelines as they started to approach him so as to prevent him from filing a report through Facebook Live.
‘I think you need to back away,’ Vesey told one protester, a man who appeared in his 40s or 50s wearing a Trump t-shirt and a red baseball cap.
‘I’ve got hydroxychloroquine, I’m fine,’ the man said as he continued to approach Vesey.
‘I’m just standing here [and] this guy will not get away from me,’ Vesey said as he livestreamed the event.
Vesey then turns to the man and says: ‘Can you back away?’
‘No,’ the man replies.
Hydroxychloroquine is the anti-malaria drug treatment touted by Trump and his supporters as a possible treatment of COVID-19.
Health and medical experts, however, said that studies have shown the drug either has no effect on COVID-19 patients or can even cause serious complications and side effects.
Another protester at the rally who was wearing a face covering held a megaphone and started to approach Vesey.
‘Why are you [in the news media] essential?’ she yelled into the megaphone. ‘Why?’
Another woman with a megaphone and no face covering told Vesey: ‘You like to paint us as if we are a danger while we are outside.’
Another protester accused Vesey and the press of portraying them as ‘murderers’ for being outdoors.
Vesey later posted a video on Twitter showing the demonstrators not adhering to social distancing while gathered on the narrow sidewalk.
One woman without a mask confronted Vesey, telling him: ‘You shouldn’t be here. You’re fake news.’
The level of anger directed at the media from these protestors was alarming. As always, I will tell a fair and unbiased story today. pic.twitter.com/5jCR0YY9VH
— Kevin Vesey (@KevinVesey) May 14, 2020
Cuomo’s daily briefings on the coronavirus have been aired nationally on news networks, including Fox News and others.
The New York governor, a Democrat, has seen his popularity rise as the public credits him for his updates that some say project a calm style of leadership.
Cuomo this week extended the state’s lockdown until the end of May, though the governor did allow nonessential businesses in parts of New York State to gradually reopen after the regions met the criteria.
But the shutdown does not appear to be ending anytime soon in downstate New York, particularly in hard-hit areas like New York City, Nassau County, and Suffolk County, where Thursday’s protest took place.
Another protester shouted at Vesey: ‘You are the enemy of the people!’
Another woman said she was aware of the reporter’s ‘liberal agenda.’
A man walked by and said: ‘You used to be a good channel. I don’t know what happened to you.’
Another protester taunted the reporter, saying: ‘You’re a hack!’
The Setauket Patriots later issued an apology to Vesey, saying that those who chased him did not represent the organization.
‘We can tell you that the few who decided to harass you and try to prevent you from doing your job are not members or affiliated with the Setauket Patriots group in any way shape or form,’ the group said.
‘We were looking forward to you giving us fair coverage with what you’ve documented when we first arrived.
‘But as with all mass rally events you will always get a few idiots to disrupt an otherwise peaceful pleasant demonstration and they should have been removed by police.’
No arrests were made at the rally.
Vesey’s social media posts showing the videos went viral. They were viewed and shared hundreds of thousands of times over the course of Thursday and Friday.
Trump himself twice retweeted the videos.
In one caption, the president wrote in all caps: ‘FAKE NEWS IS NOT ESSENTIAL!’
“FAKE NEWS IS NOT ESSENTIAL!”https://t.co/5286zgRVWQ
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2020
In the other caption, Trump wrote: ‘People can’t get enough of this. Great people!’
People can’t get enough of this. Great people! https://t.co/b4HM0C298h
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2020
CNN’s Jake Tapper slammed the tweets by Trump by tweeting the numbers of dead and infected Americans during the coronavirus outbreak.
Some “87,000 Americans dead, 1.3 million infected,” he wrote, “and the president is attacking a local TV reporter who was trying to do his job.”
This is the America that Trump has created — and the one in which he hopes to win a second term.
An America where a video of a reporter being mocked and taunted for doing his job becomes fodder for Trump’s war on the media.
An America where the President of the United States calls those jeering at a reporter for doing his job “great people.”
An America where common decency is ignored in favor of rank, blind partisanship.