Photographer Joshua McKerrow spent Thursday at the Maryland governor’s mansion, where he has traveled annually for years to cover the holiday decorations with Capital Gazette reporter Wendi Winters. But this year, Winters was absent — one of the five victims killed in a mass shooting in the paper’s Annapolis newsroom in June. So McKerrow was already emotional when he saw President Trump’s latest all-caps broadside against journalists.
“FAKE NEWS – THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!” Trump tweeted Thursday night amid a flurry of outbursts about special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.
McKerrow responded eloquently in a thread that is equal parts memorial to Winters and rebuttal of the president’s attacks on journalists at a time when global violence against reporters is spiking.
“Wendi was no ones enemy,” McKerrow wrote in a series retweeted more than 12,000 times as of early Friday.
Trump’s use of the phrase “enemy of the people” to attack journalists has particularly worried historians, who point out that Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong all regularly used the term to attack domestic enemies — particularly truth-telling scholars and reporters. That hasn’t stopped the president from regularly trotting out the slur on the campaign trail to thunderous applause from supporters and mounting concern from journalists covering his rallies.
It’s not clear what sparked his latest outburst in a stand-alone tweet last night. But Trump’s tweet came soon after a phoned-in bomb threat led to CNN’s entire newsroom being evacuated — another vivid reminder of the animus against journalists.
Moved by his memories of Winters, McKerrow linked to Trump’s tweet and began writing.
As he photographed the decorations at the governor’s mansion, McKerrow wrote: “All I could think about was Wendi. I felt like she was with me, that she was actually present.”
McKerrow recalled how she loved to ask everyone, “How many cookies are you making this year?” and said he started weeping after a guard pulled him aside to tell him: “I really miss Wendi. Next year I’m going to name a cookie for her.”
Winters, 65, died in the Capital Gazette newsroom June 28 when a gunman identified by police as Jarrod Ramos barged in with a shotgun and began firing. Also killed were Gerald Fischman, 61, and Rob Hiaasen, 59, both columnists and editors, John McNamara, 56, a sports reporter, and Rebecca Smith, 34, a sales assistant. Ramos, who has been charged with five counts of murder in the case, had a long-running legal dispute with the paper, but it’s still not clear why he allegedly decided to violently attack that day.
“She died in The Capital newsroom on June 28th, shot by a man who wanted to kill every journalist he could,” McKerrow wrote. “We don’t know what set him off yet. After years of silence. What finally pushed him far enough that he loaded his shotgun, drove the 40 minutes from Laurel, parked his car, walked through the busy lobby, barricaded our back exit, blasted the simple fragile glass door.”
McKerrow suggested that continuing to work as a journalist in the face of hostility is the best memorial for his fallen colleagues.
“I don’t have a wrap-up to this story. I cried on and off all day. I miss her very much. I’m comforted that in a way she’s still with me, when I do the work that she loved to do. Journalism. Patriotic, truth telling, American. We’ll keep on doing the work,” he wrote.
“And if we die for it, someone else will pick up the threads, and report on the holiday decorations at the Governor’s house. Its what we do.”
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