Time to get serious over Trump’s terror reporting claims


Dear President Trump,

I read with interest your claim that terrorist acts in Europe are going unreported. My interest is born out of two facts, firstly that I am writing this in Birmingham and secondly that I am a journalist. Before you dismiss me on the basis of that second point, let me explain.

I am sure that as an avowed anglophile you will have heard of Birmingham. You may recall that Steve Emerson, an American who described himself as ‘a terrorism expert’ claimed last year on Fox News that “there are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in.”

He was wrong, of course, and Fox News broadcast an apology to Birmingham and its people. In fact, once we had got over the immediate shock that such an inaccurate claim could be broadcast, most of us were just amused by Mr Emerson’s alleged expertise and Fox’s folly in giving him airtime.

More seriously, you are probably also aware that Birmingham is not untouched by terrorism. In November 1974 bombs in two pubs in the city killed 21 people and injured 182 others. They had been planted by Irish Republicans.

On a more personal level I was working in London in the early 1990s when Irish terrorists were planting explosive devices on an almost daily basis, targeting underground trains, railway stations and more besides.

I probably don’t need to tell you about the long, sad history of IRA activity, now thankfully behind us, as you are well aware that at the time funds were being raised in cities like Boston and your own New York, which it was widely accepted were funding acts of violence. Indeed, you may recall that in November 1995 you met the Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams at a fundraising event in the Essex House Hotel in Manhattan. That was before the Provisional IRA broke its 17-month ceasefire by detonating a truck bomb in Canary Wharf in London. Fortunately it killed only two people but it did cause £150 million of damage.

You are right that no journalist wants to report terrorist activity. Telling stories of human misery is never a welcome task. But journalists do report attacks – whoever carries them out – in great detail. That’s true in Britain and across Europe. We will never reach the stage you suggested when you said ‘It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported.’

I respect your right not to like the news media and I am sure your view of a ‘very dishonest press’ is a sincerely held view but I have to record my own equally sincere belief that you are wrong.

Let me take just one more minute of your time to offer another reminder. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists 40 of the 69 journalists killed in the course of their work in 2015 died at the hands of Islamic terrorists.

That’s serious stuff and it brings me to my final point. I mentioned that many people here were amused by Steve Emerson (as a Twitter user you’d have loved some of the reaction) but you are the President of the United States and we cannot afford your claims, like his, to lead people treating you as a joke.