- Date of Incident
- October 24, 2018
Man who mailed explosive devices to CNN, others sentenced to 20 years in jail
Cesar Sayoc, charged with sending more than a dozen pipe bombs to media and prominent Democrats in October 2018, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison plus five years of supervised release, according to CNN, which received one of the devices.
On Aug. 5, 2019, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff cited in his sentencing the fact that the 16 improvised explosive devices—sent to 13 targets across the country—were inoperable, CNN reported.
Sayoc was arrested in March in South Florida, living in a van covered in Pro-Trump images. His defense asked for a lesser sentence, citing his obsessive support of Trump and consumption of Fox News conspiracy theories, The Washington Post reported.
Prosecutors took an opposing side on the influence of Trump’s rhetoric, with Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane Kim calling it part of his slew of excuses, with his main goal to “deter and chill political activity,” The Post reported.
On Oct. 24, 2018, one of the improvised explosive devices, addressed to former CIA director John Brennan, was sent to the Time Warner Center in New York City, which houses CNN. The center and surrounding areas were evacuated.
Second pipe bomb sent to CNN
On Oct. 26, 2018, a second pipe bomb was discovered at a post office near the Time Warner Center. This one was addressed to James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence director who is now a CNN commentator.
On the same day, authorities arrested a 54-year-old man in Florida in connection with the string of attempted bombings. The suspect, Cesar Sayoc, was living in a van plastered with pro-Trump, anti-Democrat, and anti-CNN stickers.
Documentary filmmaker posted a video of a February 2017 Trump rally, in which Sayoc can be seen holding up anti-CNN signs and chanting, "CNN sucks!"
On Oct. 29, Trump once again blamed "The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People" for spurring anger and outrage.
There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news. The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open & obvious hostility & report the news accurately & fairly. That will do much to put out the flame...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2018
....of Anger and Outrage and we will then be able to bring all sides together in Peace and Harmony. Fake News Must End!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2018
A few hours later, another suspicious package addressed to CNN was discovered at a post office in Atlanta, Georgia, near the cable network's global headquarters. Unlike the packages sent to CNN’s New York offices, which were specifically addressed to cable news commentators John Brennan and James Clapper, this package was simply addressed to “CNN.”
The New York Times reports that authorities found Sayoc's "target list" with more than 100 names on it — including the name of an editor at the Times.
Trump criticizes media after attempted bombing
During a rally in Wisconsin on the night of Oct. 24, 2018, Trump criticized the media while condemning the attempted bombings.
"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," he said. "Have to do it."
In a tweet the next day, the president blamed journalists for causing "the Anger we see today in our society" by publishing fake news.
A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News. It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 25, 2018
On Oct. 24, 2018, CNN’s New York bureau was evacuated after a pipe bomb was found in the mailroom of the Time Warner Center, which houses CNN’s New York offices.
The package containing the bomb, which also contained an unknown white powder that authorities later determined was part of the bomb, was addressed to “John Brenan, Time Warner Center (CNN).” John Brennan, the former CIA director, is now a paid commentator on MSNBC but has previously appeared as a guest on CNN.
Authorities said that the bomb sent to CNN was similar to explosive devices sent to former president Barack Obama, former vice president Joe Biden, former attorney general Eric Holder, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Democratic congresswoman Maxine Waters, and major Democratic donor George Soros.
Shortly after 10 a.m. on Oct. 24, as CNN’s Jim Sciutto and Poppy Harlow were anchoring a live segment about the suspicious packages mailed to the Obamas and Clinton, a fire alarm went off inside the CNN newsroom.
“There’s a fire alarm, you might have heard it in the background, we’re going to find out what the latest is here at CNN, and we’re going to be right back,” Sciutto said.
Time Warner Center – where CNN's New York offices are located – was just evacuated. The alarm went off as @jimsciutto and @PoppyHarlowCNN were on air reporting the packages sent to the Clintons and Obamas. @ShimonPro reporting it was over "a suspicious package." pic.twitter.com/EYBsytil0o— 💀andrew👻kaczynski🎃 (@KFILE) October 24, 2018
As CNN’s New York bureau evacuated, the network switched its broadcast to the Washington bureau. But Poppy, Harlow, and other CNN reporters in New York were soon back on the air, using cellphones to offer live reports from the street outside the Time Warner Center.
The NYPD bomb squad removed the device from the Time Warner Center mailroom shortly before noon, but CNN employees were not allowed to re-enter the building until the NYPD had finished sweeping every floor in the building for the white powder. Finally, CNN employees were able to return to their desks around 3:30 p.m.
President Trump criticized the pipe bomb attacks in very broad terms during an unrelated bill-signing ceremony at the White House on Oct. 24.
“We have to unify,” he said. “We have to come together. Acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America. This egregious conduct is abhorrent to everything we hold dear. We’re extremely angry, upset, unhappy about what we witnessed this morning and we will get to the bottom of it.”
The president did not mention CNN or any of the other bomb targets by name.
“There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media,” CNN chief executive Jeff Zucker said in a statement released a few hours later. “The President, and especially the White House Press Secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that.”
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected]