What I Think Jack Germond and Merriman Smith Would Have Said to Chris Morris

By Jack Limpert

Today’s Time magazine update on a February 29 incident at a Trump campaign rally where a Secret Service agent threw a photographer for Time and the AP to the ground:

The Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security has opened an investigation into the recent confrontation between a U.S. Secret Service agent and a TIME photographer at a Donald Trump campaign rally in Virginia.

A spokesperson for the Office of Inspector General (OIG) said the investigation would be conducted “independent” of the Secret Service, which has also announced a review of the incident. The Secret Service is a division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

“The OIG has primary jurisdiction within DHS over investigations of potential misconduct by employees of the Secret Service, and brings the independence of the OIG to bear on those matters that involve high-level officials, serious misconduct, or matters of significant public interest,” the statement reads. “When our investigation is finished, we will publish a report describing our findings related to this specific incident and any wider management concerns that may be uncovered. The OIG does not otherwise comment on the details of ongoing investigations.”

The incident, involving TIME contract photographer Chris Morris, occurred at a Donald Trump rally at Radford University in Virginia on Feb. 29. TIME has contacted the U.S. Secret Service to express concerns about the level and nature of the agent’s response.

The Time update adds a new video that shows Morris being thrown down and then getting up and being restrained. The update and video don’t say what triggered the confrontation between the photographer and the Secret Service agent. And almost all the press coverage has seemed pretty much wasn’t it outrageous how a member of the press was mistreated.

I’ve been a journalist since 1960 with a year off in 1968 as a Congressional Fellow, a program that brings journalists and political scientists to Washington to work on Capitol Hill so they better understand the legislative process.

On that fellowship, I was in the Senate office of Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey and for the first three months of 1968 it was pretty routine Capitol Hill work, answering press inquiries and writing one speech. Then, on March 31, President Johnson, under fire for his Vietnam policies, announced he would not run for re-election, making Vice President Humphrey a presidential candidate. For the rest of that year I was out on the campaign trail, traveling and working with the writing press. And getting to know the Secret Service agents who traveled with us.

I always thought they had the world’s toughest job. It was five years after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and we then saw his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, running for president in 1968 and getting shot and killed after a campaign speech in Los Angeles. The agents we worked with had to be on maximum alert when the Vice President was campaigning, never knowing if another Lee Harvey Oswald or Sirhan Sirhan was nearby. I often wondered how they survived that kind of tension.

The video of the Trump event shows the crowds and the chaos that’s part of a presidential campaign. I kept thinking: Protecting Donald Trump has to be the worst possible assignment for any agent. Trump is as polarizing a political figure as George Wallace was in 1968—lots of people loathe him and can’t picture him as President. If Trump was assassinated while campaigning? It’s hard to imagine how his followers would react.

So I feel for that Secret Service agent who reacted to the photographer that way. Yes, he lost it and probably will never again be able to do that kind of work.

But he was doing his job, protecting a candidate, and photographer Chris Morris did leave the area where he was supposed to be, and, when confronted by the Secret Service agent, did say, “Fuck you.”

In 1968 I dealt with hundreds of reporters and photographers. We all knew there were nuts out there. We all knew the tension and pressure the Secret Service agents were under. I can’t imagine any of us—staff or press—saying “Fuck you” to a Secret Service agent trying to protect the candidate in a campaign crowd.

I don’t think Jack Germond or Merriman Smith or any of the others out with us in 1968 would have martyred Chris Morris. They would have drilled him a new you-know-what and probably bought a drink for the Secret Service agent who shut him up.

Wikipedia on the George Wallace campaign in 1968:

Many found Wallace an entertaining campaigner, regardless of whether they approved of his opinions. To hippies who said he was a Nazi, he replied, “I was killing fascists when you punks were in diapers.” Another memorable quote: “They’re building a bridge over the Potomac for all the white liberals fleeing to Virginia.”

On October 24, 1968, Wallace spoke at Madison Square Garden before “the largest political rally held in New York City since Franklin Roosevelt had denounced the forces of ‘organized money’ from the same stage in 1936”. An overflow crowd of 20,000 packed the Garden while pro- and anti-Wallace protesters clashed with more than 1,000 police across the street. In a now-famous reference to a protester that had lain down in front of Lyndon B. Johnson’s limousine the year before, Wallace stated, “I tell you when November comes, the first time they lie down in front of my limousine it’ll be the last one they ever lay down in front of; their day is over!”

George Wallace got almost 10 million votes and won five states in the 1968 presidential election. In 1972, Arthur Bremer shot presidential candidate Wallace at a campaign event in Laurel, Maryland, leaving Wallace permanently paralyzed from the waist down.








  1. That’s old-timer bull (you know what) Jack. The agent was out of control. I want a “fuck you” photographer on the trail. With the preponderance of amateurs with a blog acting like they are legitimate members of the press, I want a professional. As for the “pen,” fuck that too. Credentialed media have been swept, searched and, if traveling with the candidate, vetted. They are not the threat.

    Watch many of Trump rallies and they are a free-for-all of selfies with the candidate,

    I rarely comment online, but did so on the AP Blog.

    And please, don’t buy a drink for a Secret Service agent, they’re better without being under the influence.

    John Gaps III
    AP Staff Photographer
    1985 – 2001

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