Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price on Wednesday commended police in West Virginia for “doing what they thought was appropriate” in arresting a reporter for the independent Public News Service who shouted questions at him, but added that it wasn’t his call to say whether officers took proper measures, reports STAT News.
Dan Heyman, a reporter for Public News Service, said he was arrested at the West Virginia State Capitol after trying to ask Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and his colleague Kellyanne Conway whether domestic violence is considered a pre-existing condition under the House-passed TrumpCare bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare.
Price said the journalist confronted him while he was walking down a hallway.
“That gentleman was not in a press conference,” he said.
A video of the arrest, shot by Valerie Woody with the West Virginia Citizens Action Group. 3/3 pic.twitter.com/Q1bOSotNEe
— Eric Tegethoff (@EricTegethoff) May 9, 2017
Heyman was arrested and charged with willful disruption of governmental processes, a misdemeanor.
According to the criminal complaint by the capitol police, Heyman was “aggressively breaching the secret service agents to the point where the agents were forced to remove him a couple of times from the area walking up the hallway in the main building of the Capitol. The defendant was causing a disturbance at Ms. Conway and Secretary Price.”
When asked by STAT whether he thought Heyman should have been arrested, Price told the news agency: “That’s not my decision to make.”
In a statement to Esquire.com, Heyman’s editor Lark Corbeil said:
“Dan was simply exercising his rights as protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It’s a concern that there seems to be an antipathy towards the press. An arrest for a reporter doing his job is clearly unnecessary.”
BREAKING: Dan Heyman from @PNS_News has been arrested at the WV State Capitol by Capitol Police for trying to ask Secretary Price a question
— ACLU of WV (@ACLU_WV) May 9, 2017
“Our First Amendment rights are under attack every day, particularly from the Trump administration,” said ACLU-WV legal director Jamie Lynn Crofts from the steps of the West Virginia capitol building around 8:45pm. “And it’s not surprising to me that an incident like this would happen when a reporter tried to ask a question of a member of the Trump administration. They have shown us every day since Donald Trump took office that they don’t care about the First Amendment, or the free press. Today was just another example of that. It’s horrifying.”
Upon his release around 10:30pm, Heyman and his lawyer Tim DiPiero spoke to reporters. “I think it’s dreadful. This is my job!” Heyman said.