This story has been updated for clarity.
A man is accused of attacking a reporter outside a campaign rally for President Trump in Florida — a moment one state Republican legislator used to bait “so-called journalists.”
As thousands of people descended upon downtown Orlando on Tuesday to watch Trump announce his reelection bid, Orlando Sentinel reporter Michael Williams filmed the moments after security officers denied entry to some rallygoers carrying backpacks and beer. One of the men noticed that the reporter was filming and told him to stop.
Video shows the man approaching Williams, threatening to kick him in the genitals and trying to smack the phone out of his hand.
The man, identified by police as Daniel Patrick Kestner, was arrested and charged with battery, a misdemeanor. Police said Kestner, a 51-year-old resident of St. Augustine, Fla., was found to be intoxicated and taken to Orange County Jail, according to an arrest affidavit.
Williams, the reporter, posted the video on Twitter, and the Sentinel shared his tweet.
Then state Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R) weighed in with a response: “MAGA.” The acronym is for Trump’s now-former slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
A spokesman for the Sentinel said in a statement that violence against any reporter is unacceptable.
“We are fortunate Michael was not hurt, grateful to the Orlando police for their quick action, and proud of all our reporters for their courage and dedication to our community,” the statement read.
Williams, who covers breaking news, was standing outside the Amway Center around 8 p.m., to document people filtering into the rally, Julie Anderson, the Sentinel’s editor in chief, told The Washington Post. She said the reporter noticed two men arguing among themselves and started to film it.
One of the men was Kestner.
When Kestner noticed, he told Williams to stop recording, but he kept filming the incident.
Kestner can be seen on the video walking toward Williams, then slapping the camera, causing the image to shake.
Anderson, the editor, said security officers and the Secret Service intervened and that the Orlando police responded to the scene.
Sabatini, who was elected in 2018 to represent the town of Howey-in-the-Hills, told The Post on Wednesday that he comments “MAGA” on Sentinel coverage that he deems “biased and slanted” and wanted to push back on what he considered “ridiculous” coverage of the rally.
Sabatini said he also wanted to show how “so-called journalists” abandon their neutrality and act like activists.
"And so, all I had to do was put something I think would irk them on a page without any cognitive content — nothing that would actually speak about my position on the matter that they were trying to depict in the news piece at all ... but they just ran with it as fast as they could,” Sabatini said.
Sabatini also stirred controversy in February when a photo of him wearing blackface in high school was mailed anonymously to Florida media outlets, prompting some state Democrats to call for his resignation. Sabatini told The Post at the time that he and one of his good friends, who is black, dressed as each other for homecoming week their sophomore year as a “silly high school prank.”
The legislator has provoked Sentinel writers before, Anderson said — usually columnists who have criticized him. She said his response to the video from the rally was in line with his stated dislike of the newspaper.
“I’m not surprised, given our history with the representative,” Anderson said, “but it’s still disappointing.”