At a rally in North Carolina yesterday, Joe Killian, a reporter for the Greensboro News & Record, got kicked to the ground by an angry McCain-Palin supporter.

The assault came after Palin had finished speaking, when Killian was trying to speak with a group of Obama protesters who’d been escorted out. A “large, bearded man in full McCain-Palin campaign regalia,” as Killian puts it, started harassing him and his interview subject.

[S]uddenly, from behind us, the sound of a pro-Obama rap song came blaring out of the windows of a dorm building. We all turned our heads to see Obama signs in the windows…

It was a moment of levity in an otherwise very tense situation and so I let out a gentle chuckle and shook my head.

“Oh, you think that’s funny?!” the large bearded man said. His face was turning red. “Yeah, that’s real funny…” he said.

And then he kicked the back of my leg, buckling my right knee and sending me sprawling onto the ground.

Killian’s senior colleague, Mark Binker, was also at the rally. His thoughts?

Do I hold the McCain campaign responsible? Not entirely. No one on their staff said, “Hey, after the event, go smack around a reporter.” …

After today I’m wondering - and this is just wondering at this point - whether Republicans aren’t in some respect giving their supporters license for this sort of crap. If the story you peddle is that your guys are the good guys and all those who stand against them are the bad guys, and the “liberal media” is in that second column, might there be a message there – even if it is one that is misconstrued and carried to a stupid extreme in some cases?

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Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.