SOUTHAVEN, Miss. – You never know what to expect from a Trump rally.
That’s part of the excitement of covering one.
Before Tuesday, I had never watched the President campaign in person, before or after he was elected in 2016, so I had to rely on other journalists’ accounts to prepare. Those stories include Trump supporters telling journalists to “go home,” flipping them off, cussing at them and the ever-popular “fake news” jabs.
I was prepared for this type of hostility when my photographer and I pulled up to the Landers Center in Southaven.
However, the initial reception was the complete opposite.
As we wandered through the crowd trying to find Arkansans who made the trip, Trump supporters yelled at us but in a friendly way, asking which station we were from, offering us water, seeing if we could put them on TV.
We talked sports rivalries, compared states, laughed.
“We’ve been out here since 4 a.m.! Where were you?”
“I was still sleeping!”
It was like any other campaign event I’ve covered.
While some have worn “F*** the Media” t-shirts at previous rallies, I only spotted a “CNN Fake News” one, but even she waved at me and started a long cheer train as I traveled down the line with my camera.
I didn’t get my first-ever “fake news” yelled at me until we were inside, anxiously awaiting the president’s arrival. Even that one was in good fun. The two MAGA-wearing men did it with smiles and a thumbs up. I’d rather they not say it at all, but at least they were nice about it.
The hostility I was prepared for didn’t occur until Trump took the stage, his opening comments, “I have to start by saying 2020 is looking really easy, isn’t it? I think the fake news media back there is starting to get it, folks.”
Cue the floodgates.
For the next hour, Trump got in every dig he could.
He called out reporters at the New York Times, Washington Post and others, followed by loud boos from the crowd.
“These are very, very dishonest people,” he said.
When the topic turned to sanctuary cities, his supporters chanted, “Build that wall!,” followed by a comment close to me, “Let’s throw the journalists over the wall, too.”
I looked around and noticed other members of the press feeling uncomfortable.
It felt weird to me.
The crowd enjoyed it.
The president said the “fake news media” is responsible for destroying embattled Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh and his reputation.
“It’s a damn sad situation,” he said at the end of his Kavanaugh remarks. “And we better start as a country getting smart and getting tough and not letting that stuff back there, all those cameras, telling us how to live our lives because they are really dishonest people. Not all of them but damn well most of them. Fake news.”
Wednesday morning, the White House responded to Trump’s most notable Kavanaugh comment: his mocking of the nominee’s accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Kellyanne Conway said on Fox, “People are watching this and they do worry about the men in their life… we have to make sure that we’re not blaming an entire gender based on what individual men have done.”
Can’t the same be said for journalists? Presidents?
Trump said multiple times it was driving all of us crazy that he got elected.
The only thing that’s driving me crazy is a profession I’ve always wanted to be a part of and worked hard to stay a part of is all of a sudden under fire in a country with a free press.
How we can all make America great again is to stop regularly using “fake” to describe something we just don’t want to hear.
That’s part of the experience of being human, being an American: sharing viewpoints.
You never know, you could get more out of it than you expect.