A West Virginia reporter with roughly three decades of experience was arrested for insistently shouting questions at the Health Secretary about the GOP healthcare bill.
As Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Kellyanne Conway, special counsel to the president, walked through the West Virginia state capitol, veteran journalist Dan Heyman started walking alongside them trying to ask Price a question.
Heyman is a Public News Service reporter and wanted to ask Price about the controversial GOP healthcare bill.
As the secretary was passing through a corridor toward the state capitol building, Heyman repeatedly asked whether the new GOP healthcare bill would treat domestic violence as a pre-existing condition.
Reporter Arrested For Asking Questions?
Heyman was apparently so persistent and loud with his questions that police saw it fit to arrest him.
As The Hill reports, Heyman waited for Price to enter the building and then asked his healthcare question persistently and repeatedly. Other reporters reportedly wanted to talk about the issue as well, as the new healthcare bill replacing Obamacare leaves things a bit unclear in terms of pre-existing conditions.
At some point, according to Heyman, capitol police placed him under arrest although he was just trying to do his job. The capitol police criminal complaint explains that Heyman was moving aggressively past the secret service agents, forcing them to remove him a couple of times.
"The defendant was causing a disturbance by yelling at Ms. Conway and Secretary Price," reads the complaint, as cited by The Hill.
Consequently, police arrested Heyman and charged him with willful disruption of governmental processes.
"It's dreadful. This is my job, this is what I'm supposed to do. I'm supposed to find out if someone is going to be affected by this healthcare law ... I think it is a question that deserves to be answered," said Heyman.
HHS Secretary Praises Police For Arresting Persistent Reporter
On Wednesday, May 10, Price praised West Virginia police for "doing what they thought was appropriate," meaning arresting the reporter who repeatedly shouted questions at him. However, Price added that whether or not authorities took the adequate measures was not his call.
The Health secretary further noted that Heyman approached and questioned him as he was walking down a corridor.
"That gentleman was not in a press conference," said Price.
The American Civil Liberties Unit, however, points out that "First Amendment rights are not confined to a press conference," not in West Virginia or anywhere else in the United States, for that matter.
It's Not About Asking Questions, But Breaching Security
Lawrence Messina, the communications director of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety for West Virginia, which is also in charge of capitol police, says that the matter comes down to breaching security, not just asking questions.
Messina says that Heyman repeatedly tried to move past the secret service agents who were covering the event and the state capitol, so he was arrested. Other reporters at the scene asked questions without any issues, he adds.
Heyman, for his part, says he doesn't recall how many times he asked his question, but his job means asking questions and he's never heard of a person being arrested for asking a question.
The veteran reporter further adds that he was in a public space and the police never told him he was not allowed to be there or that he was acting in a way that could lead to an arrest. Heyman adds that he told the police that he was a member of the press, and the police did not immediately read him his Miranda Rights.
Following his arrest, Heyman had to pay a hefty bond of $5,000.