Monday, March 24, 2014


There was a small dust-up in Louisville last week.

Senator McConnell gave a talk, and afterwards planned a news conference. There, he  tried to bar the editor of a weekly publication in Louisville, LEO, from the conference and threatened him with arrest if he persisted in trying to attend.

(LEO stands for the Louisville Eclectic Observer, a sort of Chevy Chaser on steroids.)

All the reasons given were spurious according to a Sunday column by Joe Gerth, the able political writer for the Louisville Courier-Journal. (The editor, one Joe Sonka, who I do not know, has been critical of the senator in the past---as Sonka also has been of the Democratic candidate Alison Grimes.)

Now, any campaign that gets into a hassle with the media is, almost assuredly, not going to win. We of the media  tend to close ranks, justified or not..and we generally believe “it’s not a good idea to get into a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.”  So Mitch’s campaign has received some black marks for its high handed tactics in trying to keep a possible critical reporter from the conference.

However, Joe Gerth in his column wrote "McConnell had every right to bar Sonka from the press conference, not a government event.”

I 99% disagree.

The senator may have called the conference in his capacity as a candidate, and he may have called it in his capacity as a public official, for his subject was: veterans affairs and a new hospital he is trying to get in Louisville.

But, the US Senate, by its own rules, is a continuing body, unlike the House. One can infer a Senator is always a Senator, that is, a federal official, and for a federal official to bar a reporter is, to me, an obvious violation of the First Amendment.

Also, a public official MAY be able to have a reporter arrested (another First Amendment violation), but I doubt that a candidate can—at least that poses other problems and questions.

In short, it’s not only unwise to take on the media by trying to bar one of us, it is, I think, illegal, unconstitutional, and fattening. In my political reporting I have faced being barred from an office holder’s (and candidate’s) news conference because I was a broadcaster (though I got my start at a weekly newspaper), through “separate but equal” news  conference just for print and just for broadcasters...another concept I rejected and fought…so it’s more than a little disconcerting to read from a colleague I respect that’s it’s still OK to bar some reporters, but not others.

It taint!

I'm just sayin'...

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