This article was written by Richard Moore and originally appeared in The Northwoods River News on Jan 21, 2020.
The conservative MacIver News Service sued Gov. Tony Evers in August for barring its reporters from a press briefing and for purposefully withholding press notifications from its journalists, and now the group suing on MacIver’s behalf says Evers’ own words are contradicting his lawyer’s arguments.
According to the Liberty Justice Center, while Evers’ attorneys have defended their restrictions on the MacIver reporters in court, Evers himself made statements recently on FOX11 that were contrary to those arguments.
“In the interview, Evers suggests that the MacIver journalists have as much access as other statehouse journalists and that the governor desires no restrictions on them or any other journalists,” the Liberty Justice Center said in statement.
But those public statements do not match his legal team’s arguments, says Liberty Justice Center attorney and MacIver counsel Daniel Suhr.
“Despite the governor’s claims, his administration blocks legitimate news organizations from receiving media information and attending press briefings,” Suhr said. “His lawyers argue that reporters can be barred from asking questions, removed from media lists, and even labeled as political advocates and lobbyists if the governor disagrees with them. It’s time for Gov. Evers and his lawyers to get on the same page in support of the First Amendment.”
Because of the interview, Suhr sent a letter to Wisconsin attorney general Josh Kaul, whose office is representing the governor in court, highlighting what Suhr said were inconsistencies between the governor’s public statements and his legal defense, and encouraging the governor’s team to adopt into practice the openness that Evers conveyed in the interview.
“They’re getting all the information that any other media gets so we feel confident we’re meeting our expectation,” Suhr quoted Evers as saying in the FOX11 interview.
He also quoted Evers as saying: “And when I have press conferences, I see them in the room so I’m guessing they have as much access as they need to cover. … I’m guessing from time to time they don’t agree with me and that’s fine, I don’t care about that, but I think we’re in a good place. People can come to our press conference, chat with me as long as they want.”
Suhr also said Evers was asked if the governor was barring any political ideal that maybe doesn’t go along with his, and he said that Evers responded: “No, absolutely not.”
Unfortunately, Suhr wrote to Kaul, the DOJ’s litigating position on behalf of the governor is totally at odds with Evers’ statements.
First, Suhr wrote, it isn’t true that MacIver journalists are getting all the information that any other media gets.
“The MacIver journalists have been refused access to media briefings,” Suhr wrote, citing a Feb. 28, 2019, budget briefing that MacIver was not invited to but had learned about from journalists who were invited. Because they weren’t invited, the MacIver journalists were not admitted to the event, MacIver contends.
What’s more, Suhr continued, MacIver journalists have been refused on repeated requests to join the media advisory list. Suhr said it was also not true that MacIver journalists have as much access as they need to cover issues.