VIDEO: Concord Monitor Reporters Kept Out of NH Speaker’s Office
O’Brien offers no comment on exclusivity at press availability on EBT card issues.
What was supposed to be a routine press availability about issues with Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards turned into an exclusive media availability by Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, who banned the Concord Monitor’s Statehouse bureau reporters from the briefing.
The reporters, Annmarie Timmins and Matt Spolar, showed up at the speaker’s office along with other Statehouse reporters before the briefing. At the time, they had heard about the avail but had not received information about it.
Timmins asked the speaker’s secretary for a copy of the email notice that was sent around and was told that only certain members of the media were being invited.
Other media outlets nervously giggled and began talking about the situation, since it seemed unprecedented.
“I guess I’ll leave,” Timmins joked.
“It’s a great day for the beach,” another reporter noted, laughing.
Timmins requested a copy of the email, which was provided to her by Concord NH Patch, and she consulted with Spolar about the situation.
“Shannon (Bettencourt) will be out to talk to you shortly,” the secretary told Timmins after overhearing the interaction between journalists in the office.
A few minutes later, media outlets were allowed to file into the speaker’s office but Bettencourt, the speaker’s media liaison, held Timmins and Spolar at the door.
Timmins kept asking, “Why can’t we come in? The invite does not say invite only … the entire media corps is at this event,” while video recording the interaction with Bettencourt. However, Bettencourt ignored her.
“It wasn’t sent to your organization,” she stated at one point.
“I don’t know what it’s about,” Timmins said. “No one has ever told me … this speaker has never spoken to me so I don’t know the reasons. I’ve never been told.”
Bettencourt held firm and closed the door behind the two reporters.
At the end of the press conference, which featured O’Brien, a Democrat and three Republican state representatives, and Jackie Whiton, a clerk who was fired because she refused to sell cigarettes to a customer attempting to use an EBT card for the purchase, O’Brien was asked by Concord NH Patch if he had any comment on why the Monitor reporters were barred from the availability or when they would be allowed back.
“I don’t,” O’Brien stated.
Concord NH Patch reported on this incident earlier today: Newspaper Barred from Attending House Speaker's Press Conference.