After watching a video of President Trump's supporters yelling, cursing and flipping their middle fingers at the media during a rally in Tampa this week, a Politico reporter weighed in, unleashing no-holds-barred tweets that described the screaming crowd as toothless “garbage people.”
The tweets from Marc Caputo, who covers Florida politics for Politico, fueled criticism from conservatives, who said his mockery of the president's supporters validates their hatred of the media. The following day, Caputo deleted his tweets and apologized, saying he should not have stirred further anger and division in an already deeply polarized political landscape.
“Hate begets hate,” Caputo tweeted Wednesday, clarifying that he was not mocking a broad swath of Trump supporters but only those screaming at the media at the Tampa rally. “But the fault is mine for causing confusion and feeding anger. In the age of social media, where divisiveness serves no decent purpose, these flippant comments on my part only made things worse and contributed to a cycle of rage that I should not have inflamed further. So I'm sorry.”
He then shared images of the tweets he had deleted, saying they are his mistakes to own.
“I'll do better,” he wrote.
Politico spokesman Brad Dayspring said that the tweets did not meet the company's standards and that editors “have addressed the issue” with Caputo.
“We will always defend a fair and free press and support colleagues who are treated unfairly or in an abusive manner, but contributing to an already divisive environment with tweets such as this one undermines that cause,” Dayspring said. “We should all aspire to do better.”
Caputo's comments were prompted by a tweet from CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta. While covering the Tampa rally on Tuesday, Acosta shared a video of sign-carrying Trump supporters who were screaming directly at him. “Tell the truth!” one man yelled. Another showed off a T-shirt with a phrase cursing the media emblazoned on the front.
“I'm very worried that the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media will result in somebody getting hurt. We should not treat our fellow Americans this way. The press is not the enemy,” Acosta, a regular recipient of attacks from Trump and his aides, tweeted. As Acosta did his live shot at the rally, Trump supporters booed behind him, shouting, “CNN sucks” and “Fake news.”
Hours later, Caputo shared Acosta's video.
“If you put everyone's mouths together in this video, you'd get a full set of teeth,” he wrote.
When faced with immediate backlash, Caputo doubled down.
“Oh, no! I made fun of garbage people jeering at another person as they falsely accused him of lying and flipped him off. Someone fetch a fainting couch,” he wrote.
By Wednesday morning, many in the conservative media had condemned the tweets.
Meghan McCain, daughter of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and co-host of “The View,” said that the tweets further alienate “so many people in the middle of the country” and that Politico should hold its reporters to a higher standard.
“If we want to restore trust in media what we really need is more sneering tweets from journalists. That oughta do it,” Peter J. Hasson of the Daily Caller tweeted.
Caputo previously worked at the Miami Herald before joining Politico in 2015, according to a biography on its website. He writes the Florida Playbook, “a briefing on what's hot, crazy or shady about politics in the Sunshine State.”