Lawmaker-reporter relations: A slap in the face? - Must Read Alaska
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Sunday, June 13, 2021
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Lawmaker-reporter relations: A slap in the face?

ROUGH TIMES IN THE CAPITOL

In Washington, D.C., the White House Press Corps is famously at odds with President Donald Trump and his staff. But so far, at least, no one has reported any physical confrontations. Some measure of decorum has prevailed.

But that can no longer be said about Our Fair Capitol in Juneau. Today, tensions between the media and one conservative lawmaker boiled over.

Alaska Dispatch News reporter Nat Herz reported to Juneau police that he was slapped by Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, in the Capitol building on Tuesday.

The police report records it as “harassment”. The slap, offensive as it may have been, may not have risen to the level of assault, since no physical injury was evident.

The ADN political reporter said the exchange between him and freshman Sen. Wilson occurred on the ground floor of the Capitol. Herz was recording the conversation.

On the recording it sounds like a blow comes in response to Herz’ question about whether Wilson thought a recent story he had written was fair and reasonable. The slap was Wilson’s apparent answer.

Herz returned Must Read Alaska’s phone call and said he didn’t want to make a statement, that he had work to do and wanted to get working on a different topic.

The Alaska Senate Majority Press Office issued this statement: “The Senate expects professional conduct and decorum from all members. Until all the facts surrounding the situation described are available, we have no further comment.”

The last time a reporter was roughed up by a politician in Alaska may have been in 2010 when Senate candidate Joe Miller’s bodyguards handcuffed Tony Hopfinger of the old Alaska Dispatch, when Hopfinger tried to interview Miller in the hallway of Central Middle School.

Granted, many Wasillans would be more likely to punch than slap a person, if sufficiently irate. But for Herz, that observation may not have taken the sting out of the blow.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • If Sen. Wilson survives, and Republicans are notorious for kicking their own to the curb at the slightest hint of controversy, he’ll learn that if you are a Republican elected or appointed official you never put yourself in the same room as a Democrat or a reporter, pardon the redundancy, unless you’re being paid to be there and have your own witnesses.

  • Never anger a man wearing a dashiki.

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