A veteran reporter in West Virginia was arrested for repeatedly asking Tom Price a question at a meeting with lawmakers Tuesday.
Dan Heyman, a reporter for Public News Service, was arrested at the West Virginia State Capitol in Charleston on Tuesday. Heyman said he was trying to ask Price, the Department of Health and Human Services secretary, a question about the American Healthcare Act. Price was at the West Virginia Capitol with counselor Kellyanne Conway and other lawmakers to speak on the opioid epidemic in America.
Heyman has since been charged with “willful disruption of state government process” and was released on $5,000 bail shortly after he was booked.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Heyman Said He Asked Rice About Domestic Violence
Heyman said that he asked Price “repeatedly” about whether domestic violence would be considered a pre-existing condition under the American Healthcare Act.
His personal account said that he waited for Price to enter the capitol and approached him, attempting to ask him the question about pre-existing conditions. Heyman allegedly reached his phone past those walking with Price to ask his question about the bill.
“He didn’t say anything,” Heyman said in a news conference. “So I persisted.”
Heyman said that police at the captiol eventually “decided I was just too persistent in asking this question and trying to do my job and so they arrested me.”
He was placed into handcuffs and removed from the Capitol building by authorities.
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2. A Police Report Said He ‘Breached Secret Service Agents’
A criminal complaint by West Virginia Capitol Police said that Heyman was causing a disturbance in the building, adding that he was “aggressively breaching” Secret Service agents.
“(Heyman breached Secret Service) 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 complaint said. “The defendant was causing a disturbance at Ms. Conway and Secretary Price.”
The officer that wrote the report said that he and one of his co-workers detained Heyman “before he tried aggressively to breach the security of the secret service.”
West Virginia Department of Military Affairs & Public Safety Director of Communication Lawrence Messina said that the criminal complaint showed that “this is not about someone trying to ask questions.”
“The individual repeatedly tried to push his way past secret service agents who were providing for the safety and security for an event at the state capitol,” Messina said. “There were other reporters present who asked questions without incident.”
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3. Heyman Has Over 30 Years of Reporting Experience
According to his LinkedIn page, Heyman graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He’s been a reporter/writer for just over 32 years and has had his work published in many well-known publications.
Currently, Heyman works as a producer and reporter for Public News Service and covers happenings in Virginia an West Virginia. The news organization’s website says it’s “a member-supported news service that advocates journalism in the public interest.”
He’s had stories that have appeared in the New York Times, NPR and many others on an array of topics.
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4. The ACLU of West Virginia Has Supported Heyman
Since his arrest for causing the disruption, the ACLU of West Virginia has been quick to back Heyman in the matter.
The organization released a statement after his arrest that called the war against the media a “dangerous time in our country.”
“Freedom of the press is being eroded every day. We have a president who calls the media ‘fake news’ and resists transparency at every turn,” the statement read. “Mr. Heyman’s arrest is a blatant attempt to chill an independent, free press. The charges against him are outrageous, and they must be dropped immediately.”
Read the ACLU of West Virginia’s full statement below:
At a press conference after he was released on bond, Heyman’s lawyer — Tim Dipiero — called the matter a “highly unusual case.”
Valerie Woody, an outreach coordinator for the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, was present during Heyman’s arrest and said that she didn’t see anything that should have led to an arrest. She said that Price and the group surrounding him were moving at a fast pace through the Capitol, and Heyman had to move fast to catch up with them.
“I saw nothing in his behavior, I heard nothing that indicated any kind of aggressive behavior or anything like that,” she said in Public News Service’s article. “Just simple, you know, trying to get somebody’s attention and ask them a question. It seems to me there was no violation of anyone’s space, or physicality, other than the arrest itself.”
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5. Heyman Has Said He Was Just Doing His Job
Heyman told The Washington Post that he was simply doing his job as a journalist when he was arrested.
“This is my job, this is what I’m supposed to do,” he said. “I think it’s a question that deserves to be answered. I think it’s my job to ask questions and I think it’s my job to try to get answers.”
Heyman added that his arrest for asking a question sets a “terrible example” for other members of the press that inquire about important issues to public officials. He said that he was wearing his press pass with the PNS logo on the front and told officers that he was a reporter when questioned.
In recent years, Heyman has reported on healthcare issues and has often referred to them as “well-trodden ground.”