Reporters covering President Donald Trump’s visit to a Honeywell plant in Arizona on Tuesday faced nasty words from a small group of his supporters.
In a troubling Twitter thread, Arizona Republic reporter BrieAnna J. Frank reported and posted videos of people mocking reporters for wearing masks and saying such things as, “You’re on the wrong side of history. … You’re on the wrong side of patriotism — you’re like communists.”
In an email interview, Frank told me, “It was disturbing to see so many people be so visibly angered by my (and others’) personal decision to wear a mask. Clearly, wearing a mask is interpreted in some circles as being attached to a political ideology. To be clear, I am completely understanding of folks who question the media or want to engage in good-faith conversations, but I am not tolerant of bullying and harassment, and that is what myself and my colleagues endured today.”
Frank said she and several journalists from the local NBC affiliate were assigned to cover any supporters or protesters during Trump’s visit to the Honeywell facility in Phoenix. Frank said she was able to interview a few, but many turned her down because she was “fake news.”
“They then began raising their voices and saying how we’re only wearing masks to instill fear, that we’re doing more harm than good, and other attacks that were seen on the footage I tweeted,” Frank said.
Frank said one man began testing her knowledge of politics and said to her, “What are you, 2-3 years out of college? What business do you have writing the news?”
Frank said that throughout the harassment, she kept reminding herself to stay calm and to not engage. Eventually, she began recording what was being said.
“I wanted to record some of what was happening to show people the harassment that journalists, particularly women journalists, face on a consistent basis,” Frank said. “It honestly floored me that these folks were so angered by my personal decision to wear a mask. I had told them when they initially asked about my mask that my mother is a nurse on a COVID unit and that I do my best to protect myself and those around me.”
Frank was later joined by another colleague, who also was subjected to similar harassing comments. Frank said she and her colleague walked away from the gathering and eventually left the scene.
The irony of this story? The Honeywell plant has been retooled to make N95 masks. So while some Trump supporters were criticizing reporters for wearing masks, President Trump was thanking Honeywell for making masks.
Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer. For the latest media news and analysis, delivered free to your inbox each and every weekday morning, sign up for his Poynter Report newsletter.