When a mob of left-wing Antifa activists descended Wednesday night on Fox News personality Tucker Carlson’s D.C. home, it signaled a new phase in the political violence and angry confrontations that now are targeting the news media.
Political violence has been rising in the U.S. since 2012, according to the Global Terrorism Database. Increasingly aggressive activists have pushed political confrontation to the limit since 2016, accosting Republican lawmakers and Trump administration officials in restaurants and in the halls of Congress. And now they’re going after conservative journalists at their homes.
“Tucker Carlson, we will fight. We know where you sleep at night!” the activists allied with Antifa chanted outside Mr. Carlson’s home.
Antifa is short of anti-fascist, though the group has anarchist leanings and targets anyone perceived as not in step with a far-left agenda.
“Here’s the problem. I have four children,” Mr. Carlson, whose wife was home alone during the disturbance, told Fox News. “I never thought twice about leaving them home alone, but this is the reaction because this group doesn’t like my TV show.”
On Capitol Hill, the overheated political debate has lawmakers increasingly working under a threat of violence.
Capitol police say they saw a surge in protective details assigned to lawmakers earlier in the fall, when senators were facing hallway protests during the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.
Security details were assigned to at least two Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee, Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Jeff Flake of Arizona.
Security details typically are assigned only to members of leadership.
Senators have mostly been away from Washington since the Kavanaugh confirmation, and it’s not clear whether enhanced security will still be the norm.
About 2,000 threatening incidents and communications were made against members of Congress last year, according to the House Sergeant at Arms office. That’s nearly double the 902 threatening incidents and communications in 2016.
Capitol Police spokeswoman Eva Maleki refused to divulge the numbers so far for 2018.
“Our responsibilities include consulting with member offices on security-related matters. However, we do not comment on these consultations, provide data on the number of threat investigations, or discuss how we carry out our protective responsibilities for Congress,” she said in a statement to The Washington Times.
The threats have extended to anyone entering the political arena.
California psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford is still receiving death threats and has been unable to return to work more than a month after she testified to Congress against Justice Kavanaugh during confirmation hearings, according to her legal team.
The threats started when she accused Justice Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her more than 30 years ago when the two were at high school party. The allegations were never corroborated, but her testimony nearly derailed his confirmation.
Former IRS official Lois G. Lerner told a federal judge this month that she is still getting threats stemming from her role in the tea party targeting scandal of five years ago.
She has been locked in a long legal battle trying to permanently seal her old testimony about the targeting, saying she expects a new surge of threats if her actions became publicly known.
“We are seeing more violent events recently as there seems to be a retreat from basic democratic norms,” said American University professor Joseph Young, a scholar of terrorism and political violence.
He said President Trump’s attacks on the press and reluctance to denounce violence on the right doesn’t help but isn’t the main cause.
“Some extremists do not see the value of dialogue or compromise and are concerned with the speed of change. Most importantly, when core values seem under threat, these individuals are using violence in what they perceive as a defensive action,” he said. “ISIS-inspired actors always cite their actions as defensive. The Pittsburgh synagogue shooter felt that his race and people were under threat. Whether this is true or not, I think these beliefs are motivating people to violent action.”
The threats, confrontation and violence come from extremists on the left and the right.
Cesar Sayoc, a crazed supporter of Mr. Trump, is charged with sending at least 16 pipe bomb packages to people viewed as enemies of the president, including high-profile Democrats Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama and commentators at CNN.
Left-wing activist James Hodgkins opened fire on a congressional Republican softball practice in June 2017, almost killing House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana.
Also shot were House aide Zack Barth, lobbyist Matt Mika and U.S. Capitol Police Officer Crystal Griner, who was assigned to protect Mr. Scalise.
D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department is investigating the incident at Mr. Carlson’s home, during which the demonstrators allegedly damaged the front door.
It wasn’t the first time the group went after a journalist. But they usually attack reporters covering demonstrations, such as when they hurled eggs and water bottles at D.C. police and journalists during a counter-protest against the “Unite the Right 2” rally in August.
A year earlier, the first “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, sparked clashes between white supremacists and counter-protesters. A man involved with white supremacy was charged with driving his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer, 32.
• Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.