While “Wall Street Journal” reporter Daniel Pearl, a highly respected war correspondent, was risking his life to cover the chilling rise of Al-Qaeda in Pakistan in February 2002, Donald Trump was busy with other matters.
Trump was preparing to film a McDonald’s commercial in which he would have an imaginary conversation with a purple blob named “Grimace.” Trump would hold up a hamburger, take a bite and invite all of us to celebrate the delicious bargain that was McDonald’s new “Big N Tasty.” A hamburger this big and this tasty for just a buck? What a deal!
In the same year the fast food empire would reveal this awesomely affordable mega burger, complete with self-proclaimed deal king Trump gleefully chatting up a green-screened “monster,” Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and beheaded by monsters of the very real kind. A video of his beheading was distributed to news outlets to make sure a message was sent to the world: Journalists in war zones will be killed in unimaginably savage ways.
But that’s ancient history, right? The Big N’ Tasty isn’t even on the menu anymore. Daniel Pearl? It’s a shame but he knew what he was getting into. I mean that’s what a famously draft-averse Trump would later tell Green Beret widow Myeshia Johnson.
In 2005, U.S. journalist Steven Vincent was abducted and shot to death while documenting the corruption of Iraqi police. Meanwhile, Trump was busy rebranding himself as a reality TV show host and planning his third marriage. He and Melania and their guests celebrated with steamed shrimp salads and medallions of beef.
In February 2012, one of the bravest journalists in the history of the profession, New Yorker Marie Colvin, was assassinated for her dogged reporting of a story the Syrian army was determined to hide: the brutal shelling of cold, starving civilian families in Homs.
About that same time, Donald Trump was beginning his own dogged reporting of how “An extremely credible source has called my office and told me Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud.” It’s important to note here Trump would declare that despite four solid years of promising he could prove Obama wasn’t born in the United States, turns out he actually was. Oh, well.
In November of 2016, a Trump supporter at a rally in Minneapolis was photographed wearing a shirt that read: “Rope. Tree. Journalist. (Some assembly required.)” Lynch a news reporter? Sure. Why not behead one? Oh, wait. Why that would make you every bit as evil as Al-Qaeda. Hmmmm.
In August 2017, journalist Christopher Allen was caught in a firefight between armies in South Sudan. He was fatally shot, blood soaking his jacket emblazoned with the word “PRESS.” Later that same month, Donald Trump would tell a rally-style crowd in Phoenix: “Reporters are sick people. I really don’t think they like our country.”
Remember these brave journalists and the hundreds of others around the world who have died in the line of duty. Remember them when Trump tweets about “fake news.” Remember them.
— Wilmington, North Carolina resident Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Visit www.celiarivenbark.com.