Reporter shoved by Highway Patrol officer
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Reporter shoved by Highway Patrol officer

Date: November 14, 2007
By: Lucie Wolken
State Capitol Bureau
Links: The Kansas City Star video. http://videos.kansascity.com/vmix_hosted_apps/p/media?id=1561108

JEFFERSON CITY -- The Missouri State Highway Patrol Wednesday defended its officer's use of force against a Kansas City Star reporter earlier this week.

"It is our understanding from reading the incident report of the officers involved and discussing with his supervisor that he took appropriate action after asking the reporters to move back," Maj. Bret Johnson, commander of the support services bureau in the Missouri State Highway Patrol, said.  "In failing to do so, he took appropriate action so that they could continue with their responsibilities to transport the governor to another event."

The incident occurred Monday when reporters directed questions to the governor as he was leaving a VFW medal ceremony in Kansas City, a part of a series of Veteran's Day appearances.  The reporters were attempted to question Matt Blunt about the firing of his legal aid, Scott Eckersley.

The Associated Press reports that a reporter was shoved into two other reporters.  Video posted by the Kansas City Star shows the scene as the door of the vehicle in which the governor is sitting is closed in the middle of the reporter's questioning.  The video does not actually show the shove, although the audio and the subsequent video scene suggest there had been physical force.

The governor deferred questions to the state Highway Patrol, who, he said are in the best position to comment. 

"I was trying to answer a few questions, but really was most focused on getting to St. Joseph where we had a number of veterans that we wanted to recognize," Matt Blunt said in a brief interview Wednesday in which he took only three questions.

When asked if this created an environment of intimidation for reporters asking controversial questions, the governor responded, "I don't think anyone would feel that way."

The incident is part of the ongoing escalation in the partisan fight over the deletion of emails by the governor's office.  

While defending the actions of the officer, Johnson said the actions were not necessarily protocol.

"I am not saying that is protocol, what we would like to see is that when one of our troopers gives a directive to anyone, whether it is a reporter or someone else, to please step back we would ask that they respect the direction that they are given and step back or whatever the direction may be." 

Johnson conceded that that the reporter did not pose a threat to the safety of the governor.

The last time force was used against a reporter by a Missouri governor was in 2000, when a bodyguard for Gov. Mel Carnahan shoved a cameraman asking questions 30 feet back at an airport in Jefferson City. 

Carnahan wrote letters of apology to both the cameraman and the reporter following the incident. 

The video captured Monday shows the governor answering questions concerning the firing of Eckersley, to which he responded, "Obviously he was dismissed for cause." 

The governor said, "We really do need to go," and as the reporter continued to ask questions, a security guard shoved him out of the way and said "We gotta go."

Johnson said that he was not aware of anybody requesting a review of the incident.