Benjamin Matthews was charged with threatening to kill CNN host Don Lemon.
Atlanta investigators say Matthews, a 39-year-old resident of Baxter County, Arkansas, is in custody after police said he made more than three dozen harassing phone calls to CNN, Arkansas’ Fox 16 reports.
In one call, Matthews allegedly threatened to “kick the [expletive] out of DL.”
“Could I be directed to DL’s dead body hanging from a tree?” investigators said Matthews asked in another call.
On November 1, authorities say he called the station to ask, “Is DL dead yet? Can you help me kill that [redacted]?”
The Baxter County Sheriff’s Office said that Matthews called the network more than 40 times over three days. The calls included general harassment as well as death threats.
The Atlanta Police Department’s Homeland Security Department notified the Baxter Sheriff’s Office about the calls, which came from Matthews’ cell phone, according to the report.
Fox 16 reports that investigators discovered that Matthews had contacted another television network, as well as public officials. He was taken into custody on November 6.
Matthews was charged with five felony counts of terroristic threats, four misdemeanor counts of terroristic threats, and nine misdemeanor counts of harassment. He is being held at the Baxter County Detention Center. His bond was set at $15,000.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Benjamin Matthews’ Threats Follow Mail Bomb Sent to CNN
Benjamin Matthews’ arrest comes just weeks after Cesar Sayoc was arrested in Florida and charged with sending explosive devices through the mail to CNN and top Democratic officials and liberal pundits. Sayoc, 56, is accused of sending homemade explosive devices to the offices of CNN, as well as to liberal billionaire donor George Soros, former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her husband Bill, the home of Barack and Michelle Obama, former Attorney General Eric Holder, actor Robert DeNiro, and others.
CNN was forced to evacuate after receiving the package, which had been sent to John Brennan, even though he works as a pundit at MSNBC. Another bomb was reportedly sent to CNN’s Atlanta headquarters.
A van said to belong to Sayoc was seen on camera after his arrest emblazoned with a number of pro-Trump images as well as targets over the faces of Hillary Clinton, filmmaker Michael Moore, 2016 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, and CNN contributor Van Jones, who was pictured next to a sticker saying “Dishonest Media: CNN Sucks.” Sayoc’s social media posts included videos of him attending Trump rallies and a number of pro-Trump memes.
2. Death Threats Come as Trump White House Bans CNN Journalist
Benjamin Matthews’ arrest comes the same week as President Trump’s war with CNN intensified to peak levels. On Wednesday, Trump got into a heated exchange with CNN correspondent Jim Acosta during a White House news conference.
Acosta questioned Trump about his “demonization” of immigrants, which Trump bristled at before trying to move on to another reporter. “That’s enough,” Trump told Acosta.
The CNN reporter did not comply and tried to ask Trump about the Russia investigation. A White House intern attempted to take the microphone out of his hands but Acosta did not give it up, saying, “pardon me, ma’am,” before returning to his question: “On the Russia investigation, are you concerned that you may have indictments?”
“I’m not concerned about anything,” Trump insisted. “That’s enough. Put down the mic.”
When Acosta refused to give up, Trump said, “I’ll tell you what. CNN should be ashamed of itself, having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN. The way you treat people is horrible.”
After the incident, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders revoked Acosta’s press credentials, claiming he was the one who put his hands on the intern. Acosta called the allegation a “lie.” Reporters accused Sanders of sharing a doctored video to defend her claim. The video was first posted by Paul Joseph Watson, of the conspiracy theory outlet InfoWars.
3. Don Lemon Called White Men ‘Biggest Terror Threat’ in US
Lemon ired conservatives last month when he called white men “the biggest terror threat” in the United States after Sayoc’s arrest, a white supremacist shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, and the arrest of a white man accused of killing two black people at a Kroger grocery store in Kentucky.
Speaking with CNN colleague Chris Cuomo, Lemon said that “we have to stop demonizing people” like the migrants in the caravan headed for the US border, before adding that we need to ” realize the biggest terror threat in this country is white men, most of them radicalized to the right, and we have to start doing something about them.”
“There is no travel ban on them. There is no ban on… you know, they had the Muslim ban. There is no ‘white guy ban.’ So what do we do about that?” he added.
Lemon doubled down on the comments a day later, saying the evidence in his favor was “overwhelming.”
“People who were angered about what I said are missing the entire point,” he said. “We don’t need to worry about people who are thousands of miles away. The biggest threats are homegrown. The facts prove that.”
4. Don Lemon Has Been a Frequent Target of President Donald Trump
President Trump has repeatedly attacked Lemon, who in turn has often criticized the president. In a tweet attacking NBA star LeBron James, Trump called Lemon the “the dumbest man on television,” adding that “he made LeBron look smart, which isn’t easy to do.”
Trump similarly attacked Lemon on the campaign trail in 2016. “Don Lemon is a lightweight – dumb as a rock,” Trump tweeted in August of that year.
Lemon’s feud with Trump may go back as far as May 2011, when the CNN host grilled Trump about his claim that President Barack Obama’s birth certificate was fake and confronted him about the racist birther conspiracy.
“I really have to go,” Trump told Lemon. “But I want to tell you I am the least racist. I am a wonderful person as far as you would be concerned as to race. And I think everybody that knows me knows that.”
“The word ‘racism’ has never entered, at any time, any sentence with respect to me, and I’m very proud of that,” he added.
Lemon said in an appearance on CNN earlier this year that after the cameras went off, “he vowed he’d never come back and do an interview with me because I was racist.”
5. Lemon, CNN Have Been Targeted by Death Threats This Year
Lemon has been the target of repeated death threats in recent months. In August, C-SPAN reported a caller to the FBI after he threatened to shoot Lemon and fellow CNN host Brian Stelter.
” It all started when Trump got elected,” the Pennsylvania caller said. “Brian Stelter and Don Lemon from CNN calls Trump supporters all racists. They don’t even know us. they don’t even know these Americans out here and there calling is racist because we voted for Trump? C’mon, give me a break. They started the war. If I see them, I’m gonna shoot them. Bye.”
The New York Police Department also launched an investigation last year after a Twitter user sent death threats to Lemon.
“Numerous threatening and anti-black messages” were sent to the host, the NYPD said.
“U r a pile of rotting dogs**t ,racist,communist,socialist, Liberal moron a**hole.i will find u U will pay.ill see u real soon,” one message said, according to The Hill.
READ NEXT: Patrick Casey: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know