A former reporter from Bristol is perhaps the first member of the press to be assaulted at a presidential campaign rally this year.
While covering a Thursday rally for Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in North Carolina, Joe Killian was knocked “sprawling onto the ground” by a “big fat guy with a brown beard” wearing a GOP campaign shirt and hat.
Killian, 26, said Friday that his leg “is a little black and blue” from the assault, “but mostly just my pride is injured.”
The attack on Killian, a Greensboro News-Record reporter who graduated from Bristol Eastern High School eight years ago and wrote for The Bristol Press and The Tattoo teen newspaper under the name Joe Wilbur, became a major issue among bloggers and political junkies Friday as they debated whether the Republican campaign’s slurs on the media contributed to the assault.
Killian said that becoming known as “the guy who couldn’t stay on his feet at the Palin rally is not the kind of fame you want to achieve.”
Killian wrote on his blog that the attack occurred shortly after the end of a Palin rally at Elon University while he was attempting to interview some supporters of Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama who had been ousted from the event.
As Killian tried to interview them, an unidentified Palin backer began to yell at the Obama loyalists. The man made his disgust clear for the media clear and ultimately, as Killian explained, “kicked the back of my leg, buckling my right knee and sending me sprawling onto the ground.”
By the time he could get up and find a police officer, the man was gone, he said.
Killian said he suspects other reporters have similar things happen at political rallies this year, but because they never wrote about, nobody knows.
“The fact that I blogged about it is what made it a big deal,” Killian said.
He said that “weird and dangerous stuff happens to reporters” all the time because they go places where people who are “really passionate about something” gather.
Killian, who’s been a reporter for a decade and has been on the Greensboro newspaper’s staff for two years, said that he has felt “this could end badly for me” on a number of occasions, including violent anti-war protests.
He said that after heading into the middle of housing projects to talk to violent gang members and rallies from the left and right where violence was possible, it’s ironic “this is the first time I have been roughed up by anybody.”
“In a way, I’ve been lucky so far,” Killian said. “It was just my turn, apparently.”
While many bloggers have lined up to defend Killian, others have questioned his story and accused him of liberal bias.
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