Suspected Bullet Damage Shattered Windows of Kentucky Newspaper Office

Police in Lexington, Kentucky are investigating suspected
gunshots fired into the windows of the Lexington
Herald-Leader
’s downtown building on Sunday
morning. It’s not yet known who did this or why, although it’s
tough to ignore that the incident took place in a national and
local environment of alarming hostility towards the press. A
reporter was allegedly “body-slammed” by a GOP candidate in
Montana last week, while Kentucky’s own governor Matt Bevin
recently likened journalists to
“cicadas” and claimed that the Herald-Leader and
Louisville’s Courier-Journal “don’t actually seem to
care about Kentucky” while noting that the papers are owned by
companies outside Kentucky (Bevin is from New England). On
Sunday morning, the president tweeted “#FakeNews is the
enemy!”

The Herald-Leader reports that three exterior
windows were shattered and two were damaged, showing holes
police say are consistent with bullet damage. The incident,
which occurred when some employees were in the building but not
near the area, is being investigated as criminal mischief, and
publisher Rufus M. Friday said steps are being taken to
increase security at the building. From the
Herald-Leader:

“It’s concerning,” Friday said, especially given the level of
rhetoric directed at journalists recently in the United
States and in Kentucky.

“We’re going to be vigilant and continue to do what we do,”
Friday said. “We’re not going to be deterred by this
senseless act of vandalism.”

On Tuesday morning, the Herald-Leader also reported that Lexington
police arrested a man for allegedly randomly shooting at a
number of different locations on Memorial Day. The
Herald-Leader noted that it wasn’t immediately clear
whether the incident on Sunday was related.

In May, a number of individual
journalists
were violently targeted for doing their jobs.
After Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs was seen and heard
being slammed to the ground by GOP House candidate Greg
Gianforte, Gianforte was charged for misdemeanor assault and
went on to win the election; Alaska reporter Nathaniel Herz was
allegedly slapped in the face by Republican state Sen. David
Wilson; CQ Roll Call reporter John Donnelly said he was pinned
against the wall by FCC security guards while he tried to
question officials (the agency has apologized); and reporter
Dan Heyman was arrested and charged with “willful disruption of
government processes” while attempting to question HHS
Secretary Tom Price.

The blatantly self-serving and inflammatory anti-journalist
rhetoric we’re seeing every day from the White House has been
mirrored in Kentucky, where Governor Matt Bevin (R), a Tea
Party “outsider” who threatened to send his nine
children into battle against a hypothetical Clinton
administration, has waged a peevish crusade against journalists
in the state (who have, of course, already seen their newsrooms
decimated following years of layoffs and wage cuts; the
vandalized Herald-Leader building in downtown
Lexington, for example, was put on the market last year).
The Bevin administration has been unresponsive to requests for
comment from local reporters, including “the most innocuous of
questions,” reporter Joe Sonka told the
Courier-Journal.

Reporters have been scrutinizing Bevin’s financial ties, which
have been difficult to suss out because he—like someone else we
know—refuses to release his tax returns. “The governor is
obviously annoyed because these newspapers keep asking legitimate questions
he ignores
about his financial and political relationships,
such as the one with Louisville businessman Neil Ramsey,”
Herald-Leader columnist Tom Eblen wrote. Bevin recently
purchased a generously-priced mansion from Ramsay, a former
campaign donor who had received state tax credits for investing $300,000 in a
company partly owned by Bevin. A formal ethics complaint
accusing the governor of using public office for private gain
was filed against the
administration last week by the chairman of Common Cause of
Kentucky. (In a news conference on Friday, Bevin dismissed the ethics
complaint as a political attack, said the property was
overvalued, and said he was a minority owner of the company in
question and that Ramsay was just one of up to 100 investors.)

“If Bevin thinks he can avoid accountability by insulting
newspapers and comparing journalists to bugs, he has a lot to
learn about being a public servant,” Eblen wrote. “He isn’t the
first governor to have his questionable actions questioned, and
he won’t be the last.”

Jezebel reached out to the Bevin administration for comment on
the incident at the Herald-Leader, explaining that the
article would note that the incident took place amid increased
hostility toward the press from public officials including Gov.
Bevin. The press office responded:

“Gov. Bevin condemns all acts of vandalism against any
individual or institution. However, it is highly irresponsible
to suggest a motive when we don’t even know the facts. This
practice of journalism by innuendo is sloppy and reckless and
was at the heart of the Governor’s comments last week.”

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