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 Ruppersberger (D) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D) organized the first letter to President Trump — 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 Harris, 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.”