Like it or not, reporters are banned from political events all the time. Trump did it. Hillary did it. Even the demigod Barack Obama did it (and worse).
That a reporter contracting with Source New Mexico was barred from attending Mark Ronchetti’s campaign rally with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this weekend has nonetheless caused a minor uproar.
Trip Jennings of New Mexico In Depth wrote a column this week asking, “Is Ronchetti ready for tough questions?” in which, without irony, he poses zero questions, tough or otherwise.
The usually non-partisan New Mexico Foundation for Open Government also took a shot, saying they were “compelled” to speak out on the incident because of the “dangerous precedent” it set “to let any public servant decide who is and is not a ‘legitimate’ reporter.”
“The government or any of its representatives cannot and should not deny a particular reporter access to routine information such as press releases, media advisories or other tools,” NMFOG wrote.–“Freedom of the Press — Key to Democracy” NMFOG, Aug. 16, 2022
The problem here, which was obvious to everyone but NMFOG, is that Ronchetti is not a public servant. He is not “the government” or a government representative. He is a private citizen, and until he is elected governor, he is under no obligation to grant access to events he hosts and pays for. As with Jennings’ rant, NMFOG fails to articulate exactly what questions were prevented from being asked or what answers Ronchetti has failed to answer.
For the record, neither Ronchetti nor DeSantis took questions from reporters at the Carlsbad rally. Candidates often don’t–because nothing zaps the energy out of a packed campaign rally than a post-stump Q&A with the press. That’s not to say the press weren’t invited. Credentials were handed out to all comers, regardless of political bias or past criticisms leveled at Ronchetti’s candidacy.
SourceNM was the only organization that was barred entry, indicating that the decision wasn’t made in haste:
“Source New Mexico was denied a credential because they are ‘a left-wing advocacy group, not a legitimate news organization.’”–Ronchetti spokesman Enrique Knell, via The Albuquerque Journal
This isn’t a question of free speech, because, as the Left has consistently pointed out for the last several years of intensifying social media censorship, the Constitution only protects citizens from government censorship.
This is a question of honesty and transparency, and while the barred reporter (Shaun Griswold) may have been a fine journalist in the past, the organization he currently contracts with lacks any credibility as an objective news source.
That’s not merely an observation based on their content.
SourceNM is part of States Newsroom, a dark money organization that’s behind the recent rise of dozens of “local news” websites whose mission isn’t to provide “scrappy independent news,” as SourceNM advertises, but to “change the political debate” through left-leaning articles and commentary. (More on this in coming days.)
If New Mexico media organizations have “tough questions” for Ronchetti, ask them. Publish them. Share them on social media. We’ll be first in line to jump on the bandwagon to get the answers New Mexicans need to know before going to the ballot box in November to pick the next governor of this state. But don’t pretend that some constitutional crime was committed by a private citizen turning away a progressive propaganda website at a campaign rally hosted by an as-yet-unelected candidate.