May 10, 2017 / 4:20 PM / 3 months ago

West Virginia reporter arrested while questioning U.S. health secretary

May 10 (Reuters) - A West Virginia journalist was arrested and jailed on Tuesday after he repeatedly asked a question of U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price as he toured the state's capital with White House advisor Kellyanne Conway, the reporter said.

Journalist Dan Heyman was following Price down a hallway in the Capitol building in Charleston asking him about the healthcare bill passed last week by the U.S. House of Representatives when he was grabbed by security and handcuffed, he said at a press conference with his attorney late on Tuesday.

"I'm not sure why, but at some point I think they decided I was just too persistent in asking this question and trying to do my job, so they arrested me," said Heyman, who works for Public News Service, a Colorado-based nonprofit news operation.

A criminal complaint filed against Heyman in Kanawha County, West Virginia said he was "yelling questions at Ms. Conway and Secretary Price" and "aggressively breaching secret service agents to the point where the agents were forced to remove him a couple of times from the area."

Heyman said he repeatedly asked Price if domestic abuse would be deemed a preexisting condition under the healthcare bill, but the official did not respond.

Price was appointed by Republican President Donald Trump, who has often taken an adversarial position in his dealings with the news media.

Journalists routinely ask questions of public officials in public places.

"This is not about someone merely trying to ask questions,” said Lawrence Messina, communications director for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. “He was physically trying to push past the agents.”

Price's office and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Heyman said he was held by security and later arrested on a charge of willful disruption of state government processes. He was then booked into a local jail and released shortly after on a $5,000 bail bond.

Heyman said he was wearing a press badge and shirt with his employer's logo on it at the time of his apprehension. He said he was not warned by security guards or police that he was breaking the law. (Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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