What does a lawmaker do when a journalist asks a question they don’t like? In American, it used to be the question would be ignored or reframed, and the journalist would persist in getting an answer to the original question. It’s a dance that can, at times be frustrating for both partners, but a dance that is crucial to the America we know and most of us love. Never would asking a question result in a journalist’s arrest – no matter how many times the journalist would ask it and no matter how many times the lawmaker would dodge it.
That can no longer be said about Trump’s America now that a journalist was arrested in West Virginia for asking HHS Secretary a question about Trumpcare the Secretary didn’t like.
Dan Heyman just wanted to know if HHS Secretary Tom Price (and WH spin madam Kellyanne Conway) believed being a victim of domestic violence should count as a pre-existing condition under Trumpcare? When they didn’t answer, Heyman persisted – as was the norm of the dance between journalists and government officials.
As Samantha Schmidt reports, Heyman, who works for Public News Service, continued following the Trump administration officials down a hallway at the state Capitol building in West Virginia, continuing to ask them questions
“Do you think that’s right or not, secretary?” Heyman asked, according to a recording an audio recording Heyman provided to The Washington Post. “You refuse to answer? Tell me no comment.”
A male voice is heard telling Heyman, “Do not get close to her. Back up.”
Then, the police arrested him. And, according to Schmidt’s report, HHS Secretary Price defended the arrest because the Heyman asked questions in a hallway instead of at a press conference.
Had James O’Keefe or another propagandist for the Republican Party been asking that or any question, are we to believe that Price would have defended an arrest because the question was asked in a hallway instead of at a press conference?
Never mind, as WaPo’s Jenna Johnson suggested in a tweet, that first amendment rights are not limited to press conferences.
Price: “That gentleman was not in a press conference." Wait, does WV have a law forbidding asking questions outside of a press conference? https://t.co/wAZspwqToa
— Jenna Johnson (@wpjenna) May 10, 2017
According to the criminal complaint, Heyman was charged with “willfull disruption of state government processes.” If convicted for the crime of asking government officials questions they don’t like as they walk down a hall way, one can face jail time and a fine of $100 or more.
Heyman had a first amendment right to ask questions, and persist in asking them in the time, place and manner he asked them.
This is not normal and should not be normalized by those who call hacking email accounts then altering the emails before distributing them on the internet, “journalism”.
This is America, not the homeland of Donald Trump’s favorite dictator. It means we ask questions and it means we persist in asking those questions. The press’s job is to inform the public, and frankly at times like this, to give voice to the many people, whose problems and concerns Trump doesn’t care about.
The press’s job is to persist in asking questions, be it about the content or intent of policy or about the Administration’s relationship with hostile foreign powers who interfere in our elections. Unlike Russia Today and Putin’s other propaganda outlets, it is not the press’s job to make Trump look good, or dutifully type his desired message to the little people.