Columns

Man Arrested for Threatening to Kill Boston Globe Staff After Anti-Trump Editorials

An editorial titled "A Free Press Needs You" is published in The New York Times on Aug. 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The FBI arrested a man who allegedly threatened to gun down employees of the Boston Globe after the newspaper led a campaign across the country of editorials standing up for press freedom in the wake of criticism from President Trump.

“Replacing a free media with a state-run media has always been a first order of business for any corrupt regime taking over a country. Today in the United States we have a president who has created a mantra that members of the media who do not blatantly support the policies of the current U.S. administration are the ‘enemy of the people.’ This is one of the many lies that have been thrown out by this president much like an old-time charlatan threw out ‘magic’ dust or water on a hopeful crowd,” the Globe wrote in an Aug. 16 editorial.

“’The liberty of the press is essential to the security of freedom,’ wrote John Adams,” the paper continued. “For more than two centuries, this foundational American principle has protected journalists at home and served as a model for free nations abroad. Today it is under serious threat. And it sends an alarming signal to despots, from Ankara to Moscow, Beijing to Baghdad, that journalists can be treated as a domestic enemy.”

More than 400 news outlets, including some whose editorial boards supported Trump in the election, joined the Globe in printing editorials that day stressing the importance of a free press.

As recently as this morning, Trump tweeted that the media are the “enemy of the people.”

According to the FBI, Robert Chain, 68, of Encino, Calif., started making threatening phone calls to the Globe newsroom when the editorial campaign was announced Aug. 10.

The day the editorials were printed, according to an FBI transcript, Chain called and said, “You’re the enemy of the people, and we’re going to kill every f**king one of you. Hey, why don’t you call the F, why don’t you call Mueller, maybe he can help you out, buddy. Still there, f***ot? All right, why, you going to trace my call? What are you going to do, motherf***er? You ain’t going to do s**t. I’m going to shoot you in the f**king head later today, at 4 o’clock. Goodbye.”

Chain allegedly called and threatened the paper 14 times from Aug. 10-22, resulting in police protection outside the newspaper’s headquarters.

“Everyone has a right to express their opinion, but threatening to kill people takes it over the line and will not be tolerated,” said Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division Harold Shaw. “Today’s arrest of Robert Chain should serve a warning to others, that making threats is not a prank, it’s a federal crime….Whether potentially hoax or not, each and every threat will be aggressively run to ground.”

Chain is charged with making threats via interstate communications and is expected to appear in court today. He faces up to five years in prison.

Jane Bowman, vice president of marketing and strategic partnerships at the Globe, said in a statement that “while it was unsettling for many of our staffers to be threatened in such a way, nobody – really, nobody – let it get in the way of the important work of this institution.”