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story.lead_photo.caption Benjamin Craig Matthews, 39 - Photo by Baxter County sheriff's office

A Mountain Home man accused of making threatening telephone calls to CNN will be arraigned next week.

Benjamin Craig Matthews, 39, appeared Thursday in Baxter County Circuit Court over a video link from the county jail, said Prosecuting Attorney David Ethredge.

Circuit Judge John Putman ordered Matthews to return in a week for attorney status and arraignment, according to a note in his court file.

Matthews will enter a plea in the case next Thursday, Ethredge said.

Matthews made more than 40 threatening calls to CNN from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, according to a probable-cause affidavit. He was arrested on Election Day.

Matthews has been charged with five counts of felony terroristic threatening, four counts of misdemeanor terroristic threatening and nine counts of harassing communications, which is a misdemeanor.

In several calls, Matthews, who is white, reportedly threatened a CNN journalist described in court documents as DL.

The calls began shortly after Oct. 29, when CNN host Don Lemon, who is black, said on a live show regarding people heading north from Central America that "We have to stop demonizing people and realize that 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 -- you know, they had the Muslim ban. There is no white-guy ban. So what do we do about that?"

In a broadcast two nights later, Lemon referred to his previous comment: "I said that the biggest terror threat in this country comes from radicals on the far right, primarily white men. That angered some people. But let's put emotion aside and look at the cold hard facts. The evidence is overwhelming."

Lemon's name isn't mentioned in the court filings.

In one call, according to the affidavit, a caller asked the CNN switchboard operator, "Could I be directed to DL's dead body hanging from a tree?"

Another time, a caller asked if he could be directed to "pipe bombs for DL." That call was placed one week after Cesar Sayoc was arrested in connection with more than a dozen pipe bombs that were sent to prominent Democrats and critics of President Donald Trump. Some of the bombs were addressed to CNN contributors and mailed to CNN offices.

Another call spoke of "bloody pictures of DL cut up in small pieces, like the movie Saw," according to the affidavit from Sgt. Brad Hurst with the Baxter County sheriff's office.

Emails were sent to two spokesmen for CNN on Thursday requesting comment. Neither responded.

CNN has been a target of Trump. At Trump rallies, the crowds often chant "CNN sucks" and some people hold signs to that effect.

On Thursday, the White House yanked the press credentials of Jim Acosta, a CNN correspondent who clashed with Trump at a news conference earlier that day.

But CNN wasn't the only media organization to face hostility on Wednesday.

A protest outside the Washington, D.C., home of Tucker Carlson, a Fox News host and former Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial writer, resulted in a cracked front door, Carlson told The Washington Post.

Trump frequently praises Fox News.

About 20 activists with an anti-fascist group called Smash Racism DC showed up outside Carlson's home on Wednesday, according to the Post article.

On Thursday, Smash Racism DC posted a message on its Facebook page saying "Fascists are vulnerable! Confront them at their homes!"

"Donald Trump, along with right wing pundits, like Tucker Carlson and Ann Coulter, have demonized millions of people, including immigrants, Muslims, 'diversity' (code for black), and the left," according to the Facebook post.

On Nov. 2, an investigator from the Atlanta Police Department contacted the Baxter County sheriff's office about the investigation into Matthews.

Matthews' telephone records indicate that he also had made calls to MSNBC; U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.; U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; attorney Michael Avenatti; the Washington Speakers Bureau; and Planned Parenthood, "suggesting a pattern of harassment towards certain political affiliations," according to the affidavit.

The Democrat-Gazette reported Thursday about Matthews' arrest. A link to the article appeared on Avenatti's Twitter page.

"We are very pleased that due to the efforts of CNN and law enforcement, this man has finally been taken into custody for his outrageous and criminal conduct directed at CNN, Don, me and others," wrote Avenatti. "We want him fully prosecuted and a firm message sent."

Calls to spokesmen for Waters and Schumer weren't returned on Thursday.

Metro on 11/09/2018

Print Headline: Arraignment set for Arkansan suspected of making threatening calls to CNN

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