More often than not, when we hear about journalists arrested for doing their job, it’s in another country. In a land far, far away, it’s rarely in our own backyard.
That is until yesterday when a reporter in West Virginia was arrested for “yelling questions" at White House aide Kellyanne Conway and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.
Dan Heyman, a reporter working for the Public News Service, was taken into custody at the West Virginia State Capitol after repeatedly questioning Price about the much-buzzed-about health care bill that is set to replace Obamacare. As the Price entered the building Heyman, armed with his smartphone as a recording device, asked him whether or not domestic violence would be deemed a pre-existing condition under the new legislation.
After receiving no response, Heyman repeated the question several times. According to The New York Times, in his recording, you can also hear a man’s voice saying, “Do not get close to her. Back up,” referring to Conway. Officers pulled Heyman aside and arrested him. The entire exchange was roughly a minute long.
In the criminal complaint, officers said that Heyman “tried aggressively to breach the security of the Secret Service.” It was also stated that by yelling questions, he caused a disturbance. He was charged with a misdemeanor and released after his employer posted his $5,000 bail.
On Tuesday night, Heyman commented on his arrest. “First time I’ve ever been arrested for asking a question. First time I’ve ever heard of someone getting arrested for asking a question,” he said. His lawyer, J. Timothy DiPiero also thought the case was unusual. “I’ve never had a client arrested for talking too loud or anything similar,” he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia described the arrest as an “unacceptable assault on the First Amendment.” The entire ordeal triggered an onslaught of responses on Twitter.