(Adds comment from civil liberties association, PIX to slug)
By Laila Kearney
May 10 A West Virginia journalist was arrested
and jailed after following U.S. Health and Human Services
Secretary Tom Price down a hallway in the state's capitol
building and peppering him with questions about healthcare
policy, the reporter said.
Journalist Dan Heyman was grabbed by security and handcuffed
after repeatedly calling out a question to Price as the health
secretary visited the Charleston legislature with White House
advisor Kellyanne Conway on Tuesday, Heyman said at a press
conference after the incident.
"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 nonprofit news operation.
A criminal complaint filed against Heyman in Kanawha County,
West Virginia said he was "yelling questions" at Price and
Conway and "aggressively breaching secret service agents to the
point where the agents were forced to remove him a couple of
Heyman said he repeatedly asked Price if domestic abuse
would be deemed a pre-existing condition under the healthcare
bill passed last week by the U.S. House of Representatives, 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.
"This is not about someone merely trying to ask questions,"
said Lawrence Messina, spokesperson 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 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 booked into a local jail and released shortly after on
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.
Advocates for civil liberties and journalists' rights
denounced the arrest and said Heyman was punished for doing his
constitutionally protected job.
"Mr. Heyman's arrest is a blatant attempt to chill an
independent, free press," the American Civil Liberties Union of
West Virginia said in a statement. It called for the criminal
charges to be dropped.
(Reporting by Laila Kearney in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay)