This was ridiculous…
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke described himself as a media liberty champion, tweeting last October: “The press is not the enemy of the people but the best defense against tyranny.”
It’s August now, and with his poll numbers falling in the Democratic presidential primary, O’Rourke has decided that he has the right to abuse press members who can not be depended on to provide favorable news.
The campaign by O’Rourke ejected a conservative reporter from a lecture on Tuesday afternoon at Benedict College, a historically black college.
The reporter stood in the basement of the Henry Pinder Fine Arts Humanities Center on the side of a lecture hall, waiting for the start of the event, along with about 200 students and college staff. Other news outlets had set up cameras in the back of the room.
Several minutes after the event was planned to start, a Beto O’Rourke staff member approached the reporter and questioned what agency he was representing. The personnel member placed a hand on the reporter’s shoulder after reading the media credential on his chest and said, happily, “Oh, hey. All right.”
A few minutes later, a campus police officer approached the reporter and suggested that he follow him to the rear of the space, adding that he should take any possessions he had with him. The police officer told the reporter out in the corridor that he needed to leave.
Another O’Rourke campaign staff member, who said his name was “Steven” and wasn’t going to offer a last name, said the reporter was being expelled because he was “disruptive” at previous meetings.
The reporter has covered two O’Rourke events. The first was at a protest outside a shelter for migrant teens in Homestead, Florida, in June; the second was at the College of Charleston “Bully Pulpit” lecture in Charleston, South Carolina, on Monday evening. At no point was there any disruption whatsoever.
The reporter asked a question during a Monday night press gaggle; that was the only contact with the candidate of any kind.
The question asked the Democratic presidential hopeful whether misquoting Trump’s comments on riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 was consistent with O’Rourke’s pledge to “heal” and not “inflame” divisions in this country.
In the hallway at Benedict, “Steven” threatened the reporter, saying that he could either leave voluntarily or be “officially uninvited” from campus, suggesting arrest.
The reporter followed the police officer, who said he was just doing his work.
The reporter has appeared regularly as a guest on MSNBC, and has covered the first two Democrat Party presidential primary debates in the 2020 cycle, with the approval of both MSNBC and CNN.
In addition, the reporter has covered campaign events for all of the major primary candidates, including former vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
During a town hall that aired on MSNBC last year, O’Rourke was asked by a college professor what he would do to protect press freedom. He said: “If we don’t have a free press, if we cannot make informed decisions at the ballot box, if we can’t hold people like me accountable, and make sure that we’re held honest to the promises that we made, to the job that we’re performing in these positions of public trust, we’ll lose the essence of our democracy.”
The press is not the enemy of the people but the best defense against tyranny. We need to vigorously defend the freedom of the press. It’s essential for our democracy. pic.twitter.com/LnqtevuOCV
— Beto O’Rourke (@BetoORourke) October 30, 2018
He added that “we need to vigorously defend the freedom of the press” and that “we need to call out violations.”
Benedict College is a private institution that has hosted many distinguished political speakers in the past, such as President Barack Obama, who told an audience there in 2015: “There are neighborhoods where it is easier for you to buy a handgun… than it is for you to buy a fresh vegetable.”