TAMPA — At a time when journalists are under fire both literally and figuratively, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s “joke” this week at a military conference about pointing twin 50 caliber machine guns at journalists and watching them “cry like little girls” rankled several reporters in the room.
Buckhorn’s remarks at the Special Operations Industry Conference quickly became fodder for the Facebook page of Military Reporters & Editors, which represents about 300 journalists.
From Tampa Bay Times
“Personally, I was appalled,” wrote Susan Katz Keating, a freelance writer and organization board member who was in the conference room Tuesday for Buckhorn’s keynote address. Katz Keading had guns pointed at her while covering unrest in Northern Ireland in 1988.
Buckhorn said his critics are being overly sensitive. “I think that is a silly reaction,” he said of those upset by a story he has told “a dozen times.”
But some journalists in the room said they weren’t being thin-skinned. No skin is thick enough to stop a bullet or bomb blast, something Daily Beast national security reporter Kim Dozier knows all too well.
In 2006, she was nearly killed in a car bombing that took the life of the U.S. Army officer her team was filming Capt. James Alex Funkhouser, along with his Iraqi translator and Dozier’s CBS colleagues Paul Douglas and James Brolan.
“As someone who had been under fire once or twice, and lost two colleagues to a car bomb in Iraq that nearly killed me, I didn’t appreciate the remarks,” said Dozier, who wrote a book about her experiences and efforts to recover. “The mayor probably didn’t realize how many of the reporters in the room had risked their lives to bring Americans the story of U.S. troops in the field, including veterans-turned-journalists with prior special ops service.”
At the conference, Buckhorn told a crowd of more than 1,000 commando and defense industry leaders about his experience as a “hostage” during a demonstration of special ops rescue tactics. The highlight, he said, was when he was aboard a Navy special warfare boat, firing blanks from 50-caliber machine guns.
“And so the first place I point that gun is at the media,” he told the crowd. “I’ve never seen grown men cry like little girls, for when that gun goes off those media folks just hit the deck like no one’s business. It’s great payback. I love it.”
No one actually ducked or cried as he was firing the blanks. And Buckhorn, whose father was a wire service reporter, enjoys an unusually positive relationship with the local press.
So some journalists were both irked and puzzled by his comments.
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