Fox News correspondent Leland Vittert and his new crew were chased out of Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Park by a mob of people on May 30, 2020.
Protests that began in Minnesota on May 26 have spread across the country, sparked by a video showing a police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest the day before. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Vittert told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he arrived with photojournalist Christian Galdabini and two Fox security officers to report on the protests near the White House at about 8:30 p.m.
The protest was “entirely peaceful” during the early evening, Vittert said, but grew more restless later into the night.
Around midnight, one protester wearing a black and white bandana kept approaching them, questioning which outlet they worked for and why they were there.
“Typically when that happens in the field it’s not really a good sign,” Vittert said. “My answer typically is to demure and move on and not really address anything.”
An hour later, Vittert said he noticed that the protester had stopped recording them and was looking at his phone.
As photojournalist Galdabini told Fox, “Somehow he figured out that we were Fox News and decided that that should be announced.”
Vittert told the Tracker that soon after, “A crowd of about 50 people surrounded us, a number of them stopped throwing things at the Secret Service [officers] and started beating on us.”
In footage captured by The Daily Caller, Vittert, Galdabini and their security officers can be seen making their way out of the park while numerous voices call out curses and shout “Fuck Fox News!”
Vittert told the Tracker that while they attempted to leave, individuals threw objects at them, grabbed their microphone and used it as a club against them. One of the security officers was punched in the face, and Vittert received more than one blow to his stomach.
A Fox camera was also broken when one of the individuals attempted to grab it. Galdabini’s assault and damage to the news equipment is documented here.
“What was different here was we became the prey,” Vittert said. “We weren’t reporting on an event, the attack on us was the event. And that was a very big difference.”
The crew eventually found refuge near a police cruiser outside the park, Vittert said.
“We were all pretty roughed up, to the point of — you woke up the next morning pretty damn sore,” he said.
Vittert said that another news crew reporting in the park that night later found Fox’s microphone and returned it.
Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott denounced the assault in a statement published by the outlet.
“We strongly condemn these actions against FOX News Media reporting teams as well as all other reporters from any media outlets who are simply trying to do their jobs and report the news during an extraordinary time in our country’s history,” Scott said.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents journalists being assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd-control ammunition or tear gas or who had their equipment damaged in the course of reporting. Find all incidents related to Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests here.