A reporter at the Springfield newspaper The Republican abruptly resigned Friday after putting out a sarcastic tweet suggesting the alleged gunman who fatally shot five people inside the office of an Annapolis, Maryland, newspaper left a Donald Trump hat at the crime scene.
The reporter, Conor Berry, apologized for the since-deleted tweet in a follow-up message posted to his Twitter feed on Friday.
“Folks, My 21-year career as a ‘journalist,’ a fancy term that makes my skin crawl, frankly, came to a screeching halt yesterday with one stupid, regrettable tweet,” Berry wrote. “Can’t take it back; wish I could. My sincere apologies to all good, hardworking reporters and to POTUS supporters.”
Berry’s apology came after his earlier controversial tweet, in which he posted an image of the president’s “Make America Great Again” hat and implied that Jarrod Ramos dropped one on The Capital Gazette’s newsroom floor before gunning down five people Thursday. The tweet has been removed.
In a follow-up phone interview, Berry, 49, said he was being facetious in the offending tweet.
“It was a snarky, sarcastic, cynical remark, and there’s nothing I can do to take it back,” he said, adding that his reporting has “pissed off” both liberals and conservatives over the years.
He said he’s received hateful messages from people across the country since Thursday night, including one stranger who called and derided him as an “[expletive] liberal,” using an antigay slur.
“All I can say is, bring it on, dude,” Berry said. “I’ll fight back with every breath in my body against extremism.”
He said one silver lining in losing his job is his ability to freely express his opinions, but “the only problem is, I have a mortgage and a kid. . . . I would like to continue to write in some fashion, but I’m not sure where.”
Berry lamented that his tweet “feeds the warped minds of people who think we wake up every day and try to push an agenda.”
A story posted Friday morning to MassLive.com, a website affiliated with The Republican, quoted The Republican’s executive editor, Wayne Phaneuf, who said his outlet must be “more vigilant than ever to be fair and accurate in a climate in which we are scrutinized and criticized.”
Reached by e-mail Friday, Phaneuf told the Globe that Berry offered to resign and his “offer was accepted.”
Asked if The Republican would provide a reference for Berry if he seeks work at another media outlet, Phaneuf wrote, “We do not comment on or provide references.”
On his LinkedIn page Friday, Berry identified himself as a reporter and online producer at The Republican and MassLive.com.
He’s held prior reporting positions at the Berkshire Eagle, Cape Cod Times, St. Albans Daily Messenger in Vermont, and Easthampton Star in New York, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Trump, who regularly lambastes reporters for publishing what he deems “fake news” and has called the press “the enemy of the American people,” on Friday struck a very different tone when discussing the mass shooting at the Gazette newsroom.
“This attack shocked the conscience of our nation and filled our hearts with grief,” Trump said. “Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their jobs. To the families of the victims, there are no words to express our sorrow for your loss. . . . My government will not rest until we have done everything in our power to reduce violent crime and to protect innocent life.”