A Secret Service agent allegedly assaulted a journalist who left a designated media area at a Donald Trump rally in Virginia and tried to photograph protesters who were being escorted out of the event.
"I stepped 18 inches outside of the pen and he grabbed me by the neck and started choking me and slammed me to the ground," Christopher Morris, a photographer for Time, told reporters after he was ejected from the rally on Monday.
Footage posted on Twitter showed Morris on his back, kicking at a Secret Service agent and angrily gesturing as if he had been grabbed by the throat. One reporter who posted video of the incident described the takedown as a "choke slam." Another video that was posted on Instagram and later taken down clearly shows Morris being grabbed by the throat and slammed to the ground.
Gabby Morrongiello, a campaign reporter for Washington Examiner who was at the rally and saw Morris being taken away by the agents, said the altercation began when Morris tried to leave the designated press pen to take pictures of protesters at the rally.
Another video appeared to show Morris saying "Fuck you," to a Secret Service agent moments before the confrontation.
Morris said he would not attempt to press criminal charges against the agent.
Other footage showed Morris briefly grab the agent's throat moments after he picks himself up off the ground.
This is the latest example of Trump's increasingly hostile relationship with the press, which is often highlighted at his rallies. The Republican frontrunner refers to the press as "scum" during his speeches, and reporters have repeatedly been punished for leaving the press pen.
In November, CNN reporter Noah Gray filmed Trump's campaign manager threatening to take away press credentials from any reporters who dared leave the designated area at a rally.
Reporters have also been blacklisted from attending Trump events. NBC reporter Katy Tur recently tweeted her experience at a Trump rally: "Trump trashes press. Crowd jeers. Guy by press 'pen' looks at us & screams 'you're a bitch!' Other gentleman gives cameras the double bird."
Trump trashes press. Crowd jeers. Guy by press 'pen' looks at us & screams 'you're a bitch!' Other gentleman gives cameras the double bird.
— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC)February 21, 2016
The altercation occurred just a day after Trump said he wants to weaken libel laws against media outlets to better sue those who report negatively on him.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment from VICE News about the incident with Morris but released a statement later in the day. "There was an incident involving a photographer and a USSS agent at today's Radford University Trump rally," Trump's campaign said. "We are not aware of all the details surrounding the incident and all future inquiries should be directed to local law enforcement."
The Secret Service confirmed in a statement that its agent was involved in the altercation and said it's working to "determine the exact circumstances that led up to this incident."
A spokesperson for Time said in a statement, "We are relieved that Chris is feeling OK, and we expect him to be back at work soon." Time' added that they have contacted Secret Service to express their concern about the altercation and the agent's response.
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