Maryland lawmakers ask Biden to honor Capital Gazette shooting victims with Presidential Medal of Freedom

Maryland lawmakers ask Biden to honor Capital Gazette shooting victims with Presidential Medal of Freedom
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Nearly all of the members of Maryland’s congressional delegation signed a letter to President Biden on Thursday asking him to posthumously award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the five people killed in the Capital Gazette newsroom shooting. 

Wendi Winters, Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman, John McNamara and Rebecca Smith were killed in 2018 when a gunman opened fire in the newspaper's Annapolis, Md., office, the deadliest attack on journalists in American history.

“Though their memories have been honored in numerous ways since the attack, including through the forthcoming National Memorial to Fallen Journalists, we concur with their families and former colleagues that they deserve our Nation’s highest civilian honor,” the congressional delegation wrote in the letter.


The victims “who embodied and protected the First Amendment, deserve such an honor,” they continued.

The lawmakers noted that “animosity toward members of the press nationwide has only gotten worse” since the June 2018 attack.

“On January 6, 2021, the insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol Building threatened, attacked, and detained members of the media and gleefully destroyed their equipment,” the letter states. “This trend is incredibly corrosive to our democracy.”

This is the second time the Maryland congressional delegation asked a president to posthumously award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Winters, who saved at least one life and potentially several others when she charged the armed gunman with a trash can and recycling bin. 

Maryland Rep. Dutch RuppersbergerCharles (Dutch) Albert RuppersbergerThe Hill's Morning Report - For Biden, it goes from bad to worse Maryland Democrat experiencing mild symptoms after positive COVID-19 test Maryland Democrats target lone Republican in redistricting scheme MORE (D) and Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinBiden to huddle with Senate Democrats as voting bill on brink of defeat US budget deficit narrows sharply Senate Democrats grow less confident in Manchin MORE (D) organized the first letter to President TrumpDonald TrumpClyburn says he's worried about losing House, 'losing this democracy' Sinema reignites 2024 primary chatter amid filibuster fight  Why not a Manchin-DeSantis ticket for 2024? MORE — which was ultimately signed by all 10 members of the state’s congressional delegation — just one week after the shooting requesting the honor for Winters.

“Over the ensuing months, we waited,” the Capital Gazette editorial board wrote this week. “The president would go on to present the award to figures in entertainment, politics and sports. He honored those both living and dead. Wendi’s name would never appear on his list.”

Rep. Andy HarrisAndrew (Andy) Peter HarrisUkraine president, US lawmakers huddle amid tensions with Russia Congress to take up marijuana reform this spring Greene, GOP colleagues call for firing of DC Corrections official who 'despises' Trump and supporters MORE, the lone Republican in the delegation, was the only member not to sign Thursday’s letter. The Hill has reached out to his office for comment.

He also did not initially sign the previous letter to Trump in 2018, saying the delegation did not wait for him to personally review the letter before it was sent. His office told The Gazette that he privately reached out to the White House about the issue. 

The newspaper's Sunday editorial, which ran after Biden's inauguration, said they will "renew our call for this honor and expand it."

"Wendi died protecting the Freedom of the Press, one of the fundamental liberties forming the bedrock of this nation,” the editorial board wrote. “She willingly threw herself against a murderous attack from a man who wanted nothing less than to silence a news organization that had written something that angered him. He attacked to kill the truth.”

The second request from the newspaper says the remaining victims “are also worthy of honor.”

“Rob, Gerald and John were journalists who died for choosing a profession that aims to shine a light on the world. And while Rebecca was not a journalist, she was killed for merely associating with them,” the editorial board wrote.