A handful of conservative personalities who attended President Trump’s social media summit on Thursday clashed with reporters in the Rose Garden after they were invited to sit in on an announcement about the census.
The scene played out as Trump stood between Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and a number of far-right social media personalities and attendees criticized for having promoted conspiracy theories sat in the audience. The mood quickly turned confrontational after the president returned inside.
Sebastian Gorka, a former White House adviser, stormed over to engage with Playboy correspondent Brian Karem at the conclusion of Trump’s remarks, where the president announced he would drop his bid to add a citizenship question to the census.
As reporters and other social media summit guests looked on, Gorka called Karem a “punk” and accused the journalist of threatening him as the two exchanged words. Fellow conservative personalities broke into a chant of “Gorka!” as they filmed the encounter.
GRAPHIC LANGUAGE WARNING – Former White House aide Sebastian Gorka gets in tiff with media, accusing journalist of 'threatening' him in the Rose Garden, after Trump drops census citizenship question at a news conference pic.twitter.com/91zNJD8gkj
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) July 11, 2019
Gorka later spoke to reporters nearby and was asked why he blocks so many people on Twitter.
“I block whoever I want to. I block 16,000 people,” he told Steve Herman of Voice of America. “Because they’re asshats, that’s why.”
After the @POTUS statement, I queried @SebGorka (former deputy assistant to @POTUS) in the @WhiteHouse Rose Garden about why he blocks so many journalists (including me) on Twitter, despite insisting that people on social media shouldn't be blocked. Here's what happened. pic.twitter.com/ujpztNDncb
— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) July 11, 2019
A few others in the crowd heckled members of the press who stood behind a rope line at back of the Rose Garden. Trump took questions from his supporters during the social media summit, but did not respond to shouted questions from the credentialed press during the Rose Garden event.
Joy Villa, a vocal Trump supporter, turned to the press at one point and encouraged them to “stop reporting fake news.”
“How many copy editors do you have?” Karem asked.
“We don’t need to have that. We just have our voice,” Villa responded, wearing an American flag-themed dress that read “FREEDOM” at the bottom.
“That’s not journalism,” Karem replied, as the two continued exchanging views.
Footage of the exchanges involving Gorka, Villa and Karem quickly circulated on social media.
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) July 11, 2019
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