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Miami Herald

It’s Not the Media Stoking Pipe-Bomb Violence, Mr. President. It’s You.

The elephant in the national discourse is that our president is a straight-up bully unworthy of his office

Two of the suspicious packages that used the return address for the Sunrise office of U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Journalists are no strangers to mail dripping with hatred.

Over the years, you learn to recognize the telltale signs: Misspellings. No return address or a fake one. Haphazard handwriting or typing that betrays the frenzied thoughts of the sender.

The rants often provide a peek into a hater’s mind. When you open something that has passed inspection — a standard in newsrooms these days — you confirm the one thing mailings, email, and social media trolling have in common: They echo the president’s combative messaging in tone, style, and content.

These angry people don’t want to present a point of view with eloquence. They want to hurt you. They want to demean you. They want to scare you. They can’t get through the day without letting you have it.

Now a raging lunatic, or a group, is spreading fear around the country by sending pipe bombs through the mail to prominent Democrats — including former President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — and CNN. In a bizarre twist that hopefully has brought the best minds of the FBI to South Florida, some of the mailed bombs had a Sunrise district office of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, also a target, as a return address.

All the bomb targets are critics of President Donald Trump and subjects of his ire. The president has used incendiary rhetoric against them, often pounding his message over and over.

“Lock her up,” he still bashes Clinton every chance he gets, clueless to the point that only dictatorships jail political opponents, and to the obvious, that only his associates are the ones who have pleaded guilty and landed in prison.

Again and again, the president has modeled behavior that has made this act of domestic terrorism a valid course of action in the mind of someone or some group.

You would think that with more pipe bomb mail packages found on Thursday — in Manhattan addressed to Robert De Niro, whose speech at the Golden Globe Awards boiled down to “F--- Trump,” and in Delaware to former Vice President Joe Biden, a most respectful critic — the president might tone his hate speech down.

But fostering peace is the last thing on his mind.

“A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News,” he tweeted. “It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!”

It’s not true.

No, sir, you are to blame.

You are the one who needs to clean up the ugly mess you’ve made in this country. Stop deflecting blame and look in the mirror. Since you launched your presidential bid, the emotional fiber of our homeland has been under attack by you, has been ripped apart and unsettled by you and your bogus nationalist pride. Yes, it’s fake when your business deals and investments tell a different story: It’s Trump and his international dalliances first.

At issue today isn’t the media or even Democrats who might have stepped over the line following in his rhetorical footsteps. There’s no equivalence to you.

The elephant in the national discourse is that our president is a straight-up bully unworthy of his office — and his diehard supporters act likewise, cheering him on, and, as we’re seeing more frequently, acting on their feelings with violent impulses.

“There’s a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media. The president, and especially the White House Press Secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they’ve shown no comprehension of that,” said Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide.

Nothing, not even winning the highest post in the land, has stopped President Trump from hurling insults, lies and epithets to stoke fears in his base, keep them hating political opponents and blame-shifting the nation’s problems to immigration.

The presidency has only emboldened Trump more. His behavior is unconscionable, and although you do wonder about his mental state, he clearly knows what he’s doing when he’s endorsing and campaigning for a Montana congressman charged with physically assaulting a journalist.

He doesn’t even believe himself in his tepid call for “national unity” in the wake of the bombs. Or he wouldn’t have sent that tweet Thursday morning. His tweets speak louder than the cheat sheets his staff puts in front of him to get him to say the right thing.

Hate speech is the language of the nation’s business for this president.

No, Mr. President, neither you nor your people will scare us into abdication of duty, silence, and complicity.

When you delight in calling the media “the enemy of the people” and “fake news,” we do with your words what we do with suspect envelopes. We stash them where they belong: in the garbage pile.

American journalists risk their lives covering wars and unrest around the world.

Be assured: We’re not going to be silenced at home — not by you, and certainly not by a coward’s cheap pipe bomb.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

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Fabiola Santiago

Fabiola Santiago

Fabiola Santiago is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Follow her on Twitter: @fabiolasantiago 

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