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“What happened today was an act of terror. Terror designed to kill or maim, to scare, or to silence,” Anderson Cooper said on “AC360” Wednesday night.
He was referring to the suspicious packages that were mailed to CNN and several prominent Democratic politicians. As CNN’s Eric Bradner noted in this story, this was “an attempted large-scale attack.”
Looking ahead, I think everyone at CNN’s New York offices is just hoping for an uneventful day on Thursday. Here’s a recap of what happened on Wednesday and what’s next…
Cooper: “We are not afraid”
“If the devices were designed to kill, they failed,” Cooper said. “If they were designed to scare and to silence reporters or politicians, they failed at that as well. We here at CNN are thankful for the sharp eyes and the clear thinking of the men and women who protect us every single day in this building and around the country and the world, and for the quick response and expertise of the NYPD and all the other agencies involved in what is now a massive and ongoing investigation.”
Cooper added: “Terror only works when it produces fear. We are not afraid. We are here and we will be here tomorrow and we’ll be here the day after and we’ll be here the day after that. We have a job to do. [This] only makes our resolve that much stronger.”
What the targets have in common
More information is still coming in about the number of suspicious packages and the intended recipients, but so far it seems all the targets had something in common: They were frequent targets of right-wing criticism.
Most of the recipients were prominent Democrats. Or as the Washington Post succinctly put it: “Amid incendiary rhetoric, targets of Trump’s words become targets of bombs.”
That’s not the same as blaming Trump. Like many people on TV on Wednesday, I specifically said I wasn’t blaming Trump for the crimes of a madman. But news industry executives have repeatedly warned that Trump’s reckless attacks against the media are having real-world consequences. They have repeatedly warned that words and deeds matter — but he chooses to heat things up instead of cool things down.
In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker spoke out about the problem. “There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media,” he said. “The President, and especially the White House Press Secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that.”
Trump’s anti-media talk continued on Wednesday night
Trump may not know what America needs. But he knows what his fans want to hear. So at his rally in Wisconsin on Wednesday evening, he followed up his remarks decrying political violence by slamming the media.
He “took no responsibility for the tone of the political discourse,” Bradner noted.
Instead, Trump said “the language of moral condemnation and destructive, routine — these are arguments and disagreements that have to stop,” without acknowledging his own destructive language. And he said “the media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and oftentimes false attacks and stories. Have to do it…”
David Gregory’s reaction
I was on Don Lemon’s “CNN Tonight” with David Gregory and Phil Mudd. Gregory made a couple of key points that I want to reiterate. “I thought he said some of the right things” on Wednesday, Gregory said, but it was “inappropriate to go after the press” at the rally.
He added: The media’s job “is not to create a ‘tone’ in this country. The media’s job is to cover power, to seek accountability, to ask the questions, and to do it fairly… We are not responsible for creating a tone, he creates the tone, politicians create the tone…”
Back to work on Thursday
All of WarnerMedia’s offices in the building were affected, not just CNN’s floors. This included staff at channels like TNT and the corporate offices.
WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey emailed staffers on Wednesday night and said that “Jeff Zucker and the entire CNN team showed why a capable and functioning press is an essential element in defense of our liberty — doggedly reporting the facts of today’s events as they unfolded and keeping people informed.”
“Our work environment is safe and ready for your return tomorrow,” Stankey said. “I am pleased with how our security processes worked today, and I’d like to extend my thanks to our internal teams and large number of dedicated first responders that kept us all safe during today’s event…”
Heightened state of alert
Security officials at other major media companies paid very close attention to Wednesday’s threats. For example, “we are treating this situation with extra vigilance,” News Corp’s security department told staffers in an email.
CNN’s Sonia Moghe reported that NYPD Intelligence, Counterterrorism and Bomb Squad teams increased their patrols at media locations in NYC and other potential areas, as a precaution.
There were no indications of any suspicious packages at any other newsrooms in NYC. But there were scares at the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune.
At CNN Center in Atlanta, magnetometers were installed at the entrances to the building… Details here in my story…