Nearly 50,000 people have urged news outlet TheBlaze to fire their presenter Tomi Lahren, after she referred to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) campaign as the "new KKK". Her comments came one day after five police officers were shot dead by snipers during a BLM protest in Dallas on 7 July.

Lahren made the comments on her Twitter account, alongside a series of other tweets about the shooting and the BLM movement. In one tweet, she appears to accuse BLM of waging "a war on cops" for a "baseless agenda".

In a tweet now deleted, Lahren said: "Meet the new KKK, they call themselves 'Black Lives Matter' but make no mistake their goals are far from equality." The tweet included the hashtag #Dallas and #BlueLivesMatter.

Following instant backlash for her comments, Lahren appeared on CNN and defend herself. She insisted that she has the right to express her views on topics, as she is a "commentator" and "not a journalist".

Lahren told CNN: "I'm allowed to have my feelings and my opinions and I stand behind the things I say because the thing that hurts people the most is when you're honest, when you look at something from an honest lens from your perspective and you bring that forth, you are immediately labelled for it and you are immediately criticized."

However, many have dismissed her defence, noting that she should not be allowed to spread "hate speech against minority groups" to millions of viewers through the media. Media critic, David Zurawik, also hit out at Lahren on live television, telling her that her comments were "reckless".

Cameron Tendaji, author of the petition to get Lahren fired, wrote: "Everyone has a voice and an opinion. However, when the wrong voice is given a platform and is allowed to influence an audience of millions by perpetuating derogatory ideology toward select groups of individuals, this is where the injustice lies."

Meanwhile, more than 85,000 people have signed a petition urging the White House to classify BLM as an official terrorist group after the Dallas shooting. The BLM protest in Dallas on 7 July was sparked by the shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling by police in Minnesota and Louisiana.

US shooting protests
People take part in a protest for the killing of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile during a march along Manhattan's streets in New York Brendan McDermid/ Reuters