VA mugs reporter, censors the news
posted at 2:15 pm on April 10, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
To channel Glenn Reynolds, they told me that the government would assault journalists and censor the news if I voted Republican — and they were right! A Washington DC reporter for a local public-radio station got accosted by guards after trying to conduct an interview at a VA hospital, on orders of its press flack. David Schultz had to hand over the memory card from his camera in order to escape (via Jake Tapper’s Twitter feed):
A young man was robbed on Tuesday night inside a hospital while federal security guards watched. The victim was surrounded by seven men and women, and most of them had guns. The thieves refused to let the young man leave a public meeting he was attending and forced him to hand over valuable and irreplaceable property. Three days after the incident, no charges have been filed, nobody has been arrested and the property is still in the hands of the perpetrators. This occurred despite the fact that the victim and federal authorities know exactly who committed this heinous crime.
This is a true story. It happened to David Schultz, a 26-year-old graduate of the University of Arizona.
What makes this story truly unbelievable – and very scary – is the fact that the mastermind of this attack is a federal employee, Gloria Hairston, an internal communications specialist with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. She was aided by at least two other employees of the V.A. and four armed security guards.
Was Schultz assaulting patients? Not exactly. Schultz interviewed a VA patient who has openly accused the VA of racism and incompetence:
Tommie Canady is admitted to the hospital several times a year for treatment of a terminal pancreatic disease and he claims the care he receives is atrocious. On two occasions, he sayss the same nurse administered an overdose of morphine to him and is still working at the VA.
He says he’s alive because he’s developed a high tolerance to pain medication. He also says he’s been denied disability benefits because he is black.
Canady tried to tell his story to me during a town meeting, but hospital officials interrupted the interview and confiscated WAMU’s equipment until the recording was surrendered to them. They claimed Canady was required but failed to sign a VA release form. No one at the hospital would comment for this story and the Department of Veterans Affairs central office did not respond to requests for an interview.
What authority did the VA have to confiscate Schultz’ equipment? He certainly didn’t turn it over voluntarily:
While interviewing one of the veterans about the poor treatment he was receiving at the hands of the V.A., Ms. Hairston demanded that Schultz stop recording the interview and hand over his recording equipment.
“She said I wouldn’t be allowed to leave,” Schultz tells WTOP.
At first he refused. But after being surrounded by armed police officers who stood between him and the exit, he looked for a compromise. … “You have to give me all of your equipment or I’m going to get ugly. She used the phrase ‘get ugly,'” Schultz says[.]
Schultz blames his inexperience for his decision to surrender the card, but the real crime here is that the VA stole Schultz’ equipment with no jurisdiction or court order to do so, in a deliberate attempt to censor the news. Maybe Schultz can start a new show on WAMU called, “When Bureaucrats Attack!”
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