The coarseness of the 2016 Republican presidential primary is unprecedented in modern political history. It’s a campaign season in which violence against protesters is increasingly commonplace and even candidates’ spouses are not exempt from attack ads and threats from their opponents.
One result has been that some groups are now seriously concerned about the physical safety and emotional well-being of people involved in the race. Though in some cases, the response seems more logical than others.
A story in The Washington Post on Wednesday revealed that National Public Radio has begun offering reporters assigned to cover Donald Trump’s campaign for the GOP nomination an abbreviated version of the training that they offer reporters covering armed conflicts and other dangerous events.
Clearly, NPR isn’t treating covering Trump rallies as the equivalent of sending reporters into a combat zone. However, violence at the Republican frontrunner’s rallies has become increasingly common, and Trump himself frequently directs his supporters’ attention to the “pen” in which reporters are forced to stand as he rages about the “disgusting” and “dishonest” media. At least once, he has called out an individual reporter by name in front of thousands of his angry supporters.
So, it seems understandable when NPR senior vice president of news Michael Orsekes told the Post that the network thought it might be wise to offer reporters some training on how to deal with “dangerous or possibly hostile environments.”
But the Post isn’t the only organization concerned about the well-being of people attending Trump rallies.
Late Tuesday, The Daily Beast website reported that the white supremacist American Freedom Party is launching the Trump Harassment Hotline “to help those who are attacked physically and verbally for supporting Trump.”
The 24-hour hotline will reportedly be staffed with attorneys and counselors who can advise Trump supporters on whether they have an actionable legal claim, attorney William Daniel Johnson, the American Freedom Party’s leader, told the website.
So far, though, while there has been plenty of verbal abuse directed at Trump supporters – mainly from groups opposed to racism and religious bigotry – most of the documented violence at Trump rallies has involved the billionaire Republican frontrunner’s supporters sucker-punching defenseless protesters. That may not stop the Trump Harassment Hotline from doing a booming business, though.