AP Reporter Barred and Physically Removed From EPA Meeting

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The Associated Press reported this morning that guards outside an Environmental Protection Agency meeting physically removed one of its reporters after they were denied entry through a security checkpoint in the federal building. The wire service says it was barred from the event—a national summit on water contaminants—along with journalists from CNN and the environmental-focused outlet E&E.


From the AP (emphasis mine):

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told the barred organizations they were not invited and there was no space for them, but gave no indication of why they specifically were barred.


Guards barred an AP reporter from passing through a security checkpoint inside the building. When the reporter asked to speak to an EPA public-affairs person, the security guards grabbed the reporter by the shoulders and shoved her forcibly out of the EPA building.

AP reporter Michael Biesecker identified the reporter tossed out as Ellen Knickmeyer, who covers the EPA and didn’t immediately respond to Splinter’s request for comment on Tuesday.

“The Environmental Protection Agency’s selective barring of news organizations, including the AP, from covering today’s meeting is alarming and a direct threat to the public’s right to know about what is happening inside their government,” AP Executive Editor Sally Buzbee said in a statement to Splinter. “It is particularly distressing that any journalist trying to cover an event in the public interest would be forcibly removed.”

Garret M. Ellison, an environmental reporter for the Michigan-based MLive, added a few more details about what happened:


And Corbin Hair, a reporter for E&E, added Tuesday that at least three outlets were “selectively shut out” of the event.


A CNN spokesperson likewise said the outlet was “selectively excluded” in a statement to Splinter on Tuesday. “We understand the importance of an open and free press and we hope the EPA does, too,” they said.


EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt—whose laundry list of self-dealings have in recent months erupted in negative press coverage—attended Tuesday’s meeting, which concerned chemicals that have polluted water systems and contributed to health problems. Wilcox, the EPA spokesman, addressed the altercation outside a brief exchange published by NBC News:

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told the barred organizations they were not invited and there was no space for them, but gave no indication of why they specifically were barred.

“[Knickmeyer] was not invited,” Wilcox told NBC News. “We provided them with a livestream.”

The reporter threatened “negative coverage” if she couldn’t get in, Wilcox alleged.


Sounds...not true! Pruitt and his staff have major axes to grind. Knickmeyer is a seasoned pro. And the AP is as reputable as it gets. I emailed Wilcox about what happened and will update this post if I hear back.

Update, 12:55 p.m.: This piece has been amended to include statements from the AP and CNN.


Update, 2:31 p.m.: The Associated Press reports that an EPA official called Knickmeyer to apologize and allowed her to enter the afternoon portion of the event.

“We are pleased that the EPA has reconsidered its decision and will now allow AP to attend the remainder of today’s meeting,” AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton said in a statement. “The AP looks forward to informing the public of the important discussions at the water contaminants summit this afternoon.”

I write about media for Splinter. I have redeeming qualities, too.