U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

DHS secretary jokes about using sword on reporters

Incident Details

Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

President Donald Trump and U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly attend the Coast Guard Academy commencement ceremonies in New London, Connecticut.

— Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
May 17, 2017

After President Trump was presented with a ceremonial saber at a commencement ceremony for the U.S. Coast Guard on May 17, 2017, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly made a joking comment to the president, which was caught on a hot mic.

“Use that on the press, sir,” Kelly said.

“Yeah,” the president responded, chuckling.

Trump was handed the sword as token of appreciation following remarks in which he stated, “No other politician in history… has been treated worse or more unfairly.” He also claimed that “the more righteous your fight, the more opposition that you will face.”

Trump’s comments at the U.S. Coast Guard ceremony occurred during a tense time for the president and the press. On May 15, two days before the ceremony, the Washington Post reported that Trump had revealed classified information to Russia’s foreign minister and its ambassador to the U.S. during a White House meeting. The following day, the New York Times reported that that Trump had asked F.B.I. director James Comey to consider imprisoning journalists who published classified information.

On July 31, Kelly replaced Reince Priebus as Trump’s chief of staff.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].