Newspaper Shut Out of O'Brien's Press Conference
Concord Monitor ban may be retaliation for controversial cartoon.
Two Concord Monitor reporters were barred from attending a press conference this morning called by House Speaker William O'Brien to address possible reforms to the EBT program.
Monitor reporters Annmarie Timmins and Matt Spolar attempted to enter the media availability in O'Brien's third floor Statehouse office, but were told they weren't invited and were held at bay at the door.
O'Brien had no comment on why the Monitor reporters weren't allowed in.
The newspaper ran afoul of the House Speaker earlier this year when it ran a cartoon depicting O'Brien with a Hitler-style mustache. The cartoon came after Rep. Steve Vaillancourt shouted "Sieg Heil," at O'Brien on the House floor on May 15 during debate on the Voter ID bill.
The cartoon, by Mike Marland, prompted Republican House leaders and the Republican State Committee to issue statements calling for a retraction of the cartoon. The newspaper refused to back down, with Concord Monitor Editor Felice Belman saying the cartoon "seemed on point, given last week's circus."
Belman said this morning that she's not sure if the cartoon had anything to do with the newspaper's reporters being shut out of today's event. She said the two reporters weren't given a specific reason for being uninvited to the press conference.
"The House Republican office made it clear how unhappy they were with the cartoon published on our editorial page a few weeks back, and at the time then-Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt did say that he intended to stop talking to the Monitor," Belman said in an email. "But without hearing from the speaker himself, I can't really speculate on his motivation."
Belman said the Monitor had hoped to cover today's press conference because it is "an issue of considerable concern to readers in central New Hampshire." The newspaper editorialized on the issue on Sunday.
Today's media availability included O'Brien, a "bipartisan group of legislators," and Jackie Whiton, an Antrim woman who was recently fired as a store clerk after refusing to allow a customer to use his Electronic Benefits Transfer card to buy cigarettes.