Lohud: “A darling of the national press corps, Lawler appears often on Fox News, MSNBC and CNN… Back home, however, he bars the press from his Congressional office’s public Town Hall meetings and declines to answer questions about why he does so.”
Mike Lawler can’t handle the heat from local media, according to a new report from Lohud.
Despite making frequent glitzy national cable appearances, the vulnerable New York Republican is threatening local reporters “with expulsion if they recorded what Lawler had to say” and barring them from attending in-district events altogether.
DCCC Spokesperson Ellie Dougherty:
“Mike Lawler banning coverage from his own town halls begs the question: why is he trying to avoid accountability from the press? New York families deserve transparency and truth from their representative – and they’re not getting either from limelight Lawler.”
A darling of the national press corps, Lawler appears often on Fox News, MSNBC and CNN, espousing his “moderate” Republican views on a broad range of foreign and domestic issues.
Back home, however, he bars the press from his Congressional office’s public Town Hall meetings and declines to answer questions about why he does so.
Lawler’s crackdown on the local press began this summer, when Liz Armstrong, a reporter from the Highlands Current, a Putnam County weekly, wrote that she was prohibited from recording a Lawler Town Hall at George Fisher Middle School in Carmel. She was barred from taking photographs as well.
The photograph that accompanied the story was provided by Lawler’s Congressional office, she said.
In September, a New York Times reporter was barred from a Lawler Town Hall at John Jay High in East Fishkill, the Times reported.
Jenn Nelson, a senior staff attorney with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a national nonprofit that provides legal services to journalists, said that once a reporter witnesses an event, the First Amendment prevents a government official from barring journalists from publishing their account of what they witnessed.
By barring the press, Lawler hopes to avoid any reporting on the unscripted public event.
Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause NY, a nonpartisan group that promotes accountable government, has asked Lawler to rescind his policy barring the media. The group has yet to receive a response.
Lerner said a Town Hall open to the public and financed with public funds should allow press coverage. She said the media ban violated the spirit of the First Amendment.
“If he’s holding a campaign event, he can pick and choose,” said Lerner. “But if he is hosting a public Town Hall, and the taxpayers pay for it, the press is an important part of public, and the public deserves to know what he has said.”
Lerner said having the press present can guard against politicians who tell one thing to one group, and then tailor a different message for another. So can recording what they say.
“By banning recording, an elected official wants plausible deniability,” she said. “That’s why the press needs to be there. Our system doesn’t work if the press can’t hold elected officials accountable for their actions and the positions they take.”
Two Democrats seeking their party’s nomination for the seat — former Rep. Mondaire Jones and former Bedford Supervisor MaryAnn Carr — denounced Lawler’s press ban.
Jones said all of his Town Hall meetings during his 2020-21 term were open to the media.
“It is no surprise that Mike Lawler doesn’t allow the press to attend his town halls,” said Jones. “Just like Donald Trump, the serially indicted former president who Lawler worked to elect not once, but twice, Mike Lawler has no respect for the free press and refuses to conduct the affairs of his Congressional office in a transparent manner.”
Carr called on Lawler to open these public meetings to the press.
“It’s wrong to bar the press,” she said. “The press plays a very important part of getting information to the public.”