Police in Wisconsin on Thursday sought to clarify their role in frisking a Washington Post reporter who was trying to cover a rally for Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), Donald Trump’s running mate, and later was ejected.
The reporter, Jose A. DelReal, disputed elements of the police account of the episode, which occurred Wednesday night in Waukesha County, outside Milwaukee.
DelReal was denied a press credential at the Waukesha County Exposition Center and attempted to cover Pence’s appearance by entering through a general-admission door. He was stopped there by private security personnel and told he couldn’t bring his laptop or cellphone into the facility.
After dropping those items in his car, he returned but was ordered by security to submit to a pat-down by two county deputies who were seeking his cellphone. They did not find one, but he was nonetheless turned away from the public event, Pence’s first as the Republican vice-presidential nominee.
The county sheriff’s department on Thursday said it had nothing to do with the decision to eject the journalist. After the deputies confirmed that DelReal didn’t have his cellphone, he was allowed to enter the facility by event staff, the department said in a statement.
“Several minutes later the event staff walked the reporter out of the facility and advised the deputies that he was not allowed back for reasons unknown to the sheriff’s department,” it said.
Trump has banned nearly a dozen news organizations — including The Washington Post — whose coverage has displeased him, but reporters have generally been able to cover his events by going through general admission lines.
Several parts of the sheriff’s department’s timeline are in dispute. The sheriff’s office, which assisted the Secret Service in providing security, said DelReal arrived after a sweep of the media area and was therefore turned away.
But officials at the event told DelReal that he was denied admission at the media entrance because of Trump’s ban on Post reporters, not because of his arrival time.
In addition, DelReal was singled out at the general-admission door by a security guard who had identified him as a reporter. Although others were openly using their cellphones and were admitted at the public entrance with them, DelReal alone was frisked.
“I was told directly by volunteers and staff that I was being singled out because I work at The Washington Post,” he said. “Any implication otherwise, by the Waukesha County Sheriffs Department or individual officers, is intentionally misleading.”
DelReal has covered Trump’s campaign through multiple states since January and is familiar with security protocols, including those used by the Secret Service.
He added, “This was far beyond anything I’ve experienced previously, and it happened specifically because I work at The Washington Post.”
Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow said county officers acted within legal boundaries.
“Just like an event any private citizen would hold, such as a wedding, clients who rent our facilities are able to control who is and is not allowed into their venue,” he said in a statement. “In this case, a private client requested that an individual leave their event. Local law enforcement complied professionally at their request, and according to standard security protocols.”
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