By Rich McKay and Steve Holland
(Reuters) – The White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) has condemned a video that depicted a fake image of U.S. President Donald Trump slaughtering members of the news media, shown at a gathering of his supporters at a resort owned by the president.
News of the video was first reported by the New York Times after someone who attended the gathering leaked a cellphone video of it to the newspaper.
The video shows Trump’s head superimposed on the body of a man wearing a pinstriped suit opening fire at a “Church of Fake News” with parishioners’ faces covered with logos of various news organizations or replaced with those of prominent critics of the president, the Times reported.
“All Americans should condemn this depiction of violence directed toward journalists and the president’s political opponents,” Jonathan Karl, president of the association, said in a statement.
“We have previously told the president his rhetoric could incite violence. Now we call on him and everybody associated with this conference to denounce this video and affirm that violence has no place in our society,” Karl added.
Reuters has not obtained a copy of the video for review and had not been able to contact organizers of the event.
The political action group hosting the event, American Priority, denounced the violence in the video and are investigating as to how it was shown. It said in a statement on Twitter that it had not been aware of the video and did not approve it.
“This video was not approved, seen or sanctioned by the … organizers,” the group said, adding that the video had been shown in a “side room.”
American Priority states on its website it supports free speech as protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which also protects freedom of the press.
White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham wrote in a post on Twitter that Trump had not yet seen the video, but condemned it “based upon everything he has heard.”
Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr and a former spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders were scheduled to speak at the three-day conference in Miami, but the Times reported that neither had seen the video.
The Times reported that the video appeared to include edited scenes from the 2014 dark comedy “Kingsman: The Secret Service”.
Trump has repeatedly called the media “the enemy of the people” in comments that critics have said could incite violence against journalists.
In 2018, a gunman killed five people in a Maryland newspaper office in one of the deadliest attacks on journalists in U.S. history.
(Reporting by Rich McKay and Steve Holland; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Robert Birsel and Chizu Nomiyama)