Trump supporters harassed Arizona reporters for wearing masks

They criticized reporters for wearing masks outside a Honeywell plant while President Trump was inside, thanking the company for making masks.

May 5, 2020

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.

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  • For crying out loud, I was there and Trump supporters got yelled at by Trump haters all day. If you found a group making fun of you for wearing masks outside, you should check the CDC’s quote: “Please note: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do not recommend that people who are healthy wear facemasks to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be worn by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.” It was a peaceful day, and your attempt to vilify Trump supporters is right in line with MSM fodder.

    • That’s old advice from the CDC, nbernardo. They have changed their tune on that given the coronavirus’ asymptomatic spread.

  • **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.**

    The supposed irony of the story takes a hit when one realizes that federal, state and local governments continue to discourage the public from wearing N95 masks. People outside the group of first responders and medical professionals are encourages to use other types of face coverings.

    But the story could legitimately claim irony in that Mr. Trump does nothing to discourage the use of face coverings in public as a means of containing the spread of COVID-19.

    **In a troubling Twitter thread, Arizona Republic reporter BrieAnna J. Frank reported and posted videos of people mocking reporters for wearing masks**

    Maybe I missed something, but when I looked at the Twitter thread I saw one video example of a person mocking the use of a face mask (citing outdated/misunderstood advice from the Surgeon General). The rest of the accounts of harassment over using a mask were presented as quotations of things the reporter heard at the event.

    If there was only one video of a person mocking reporters for wearing masks then the account Poynter published is inaccurate.