US & Canada

Price praises officers who arrested reporter for questions

Price has led the White House effort to undo Obamacare Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Price has led the White House effort to undo Obamacare

Health Secretary Tom Price has defended the arrest of a reporter who had been questioning him during a visit to the West Virginia statehouse.

The officers "did what they felt was appropriate, and we thank them for the work that they do," he told reporters.

Dan Heyman was charged with "willful disruption of governmental processes" after he shouted questions to Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway and Mr Price.

Mr Heyman later said: "This is my job, this is what I'm supposed to do".

During remarks on the opioid epidemic in the state of New Hampshire, Mr Price said: "I want to commend the West Virginia Capitol police."

He added that "it's important to appreciate that gentleman was not in a press conference, we were walking down a hall and the Capitol police acted as they felt necessary".

The health reporter for the Public News Service had been repeatedly asking if domestic violence would be considered a pre-existing condition under the proposed Republican healthcare overhaul, which Mr Price has been spearheading.

Image copyright Jake Zuckerman/ Charleston Gazette-Mail
Image caption Heyman says he was not hurt during his arrest

He had been wearing his press badge and a shirt identifying his media organisation when he was arrested, taken to jail, and later released on a $5,000 (£3,900) bond.

Police inside West Virginia's Capitol building said Mr Heyman was "aggressively" attempting to get past Secret Service agents as he shouted his questions on Tuesday night.

After his release from jail, he told reporters: "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."

In a recording that Mr Heyman made and provided to the Washington Post, he is heard telling the arresting police officers that he is a reporter.

Image copyright ACLU-WV
Image caption Heyman spoke to reporters after being released from jail

"You want to beat me up and end up on the news tonight?" he says to one officer who responds with the words "calm down, relax".

"You know those people are there for a reason," the officer says in the recording.

"Yeah, well what do you think I'm there for?" Mr Heyman replies.

The American Civil Liberties Union, who have been defending Mr Heyman, said that "today is a dark day for democracy. But the rule of law will prevail".

They add that Freedom of Speech "rights are not confined to a press conference".

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