If there are three things we know that Tea Partiers solemnly believe in, it’s freedom, liberty and fiscal responsibility. Okay, so that’s really two things. But freedom/liberty is really, really important. That’s why it’s best to put it first, and count it twice.
The dedication to fiscal responsibility is upheld by their full-throated support for extending the Bush tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires, without worrying about covering the roughly $700 billion cost.
The dedication to freedom/liberty is exemplified by incidents like what went down at a town hall-style event for Alaskan Senate candidate Joe Miller last night. Short version: a reporter was handcuffed by Joe Miller’s private security guards.
A private security guard and a reporter from the Alaska Dispatch offered contradictory accounts of what led to the reporter being handcuffed at a town hall-style event for Senate candidate Joe Miller in Anchorage Sunday night.
The reporter, Tony Hopfinger, said he was trying to ask Miller whether the candidate had ever gotten in trouble for politicking while working for the Fairbanks North Star Borough in 2008.
At that point, private security guards hired by the Miller campaign bumped their chests into him and tried to prevent him for asking any more questions, Hopfinger said.
The guards eventually pushed him against a wall and put him in handcuffs, he said.
“It was like a car accident and I had to ask, ‘How did this happen so quick? Why am I in handcuffs,’” Hopfinger said.
The Miller campaign released a statement from William Fulton, the security guard who apprehended Hopfinger.
“The Dispatch reporter repeatedly pushed a camera into the face of Mr. Miller. He continued to aggressively pursue him. I told the reporter several times that he needed to stop and that he was trespassing. He ignored me. He then proceeded to stalk Mr. Miller and even shoved an individual into a locker. Based upon this trespass and his assault, we detained him and escorted him from the premises,” the statement read.
Hopfinger told CNN he did push the security guard after he said he was pushed.
Police responded to the incident and removed Hopfinger’s handcuffs.
Lt. Dave Parker of Anchorage Police said the department is investigating the incident and will turn over their findings to the local prosecutor.
Parker said private security guards in Alaska can make “private person arrests,” much like a citizen’s arrest.
Hopfinger said he is still in disbelief over what happened.
“Joe Miller wants to be a U.S. Senator and he is going to have it a hell of a lot tougher with journalists in the beltway than he is with local media,” Hopfinger said. “I was just doing my job.”
Tony Hopfinger, incidentally, is the founder and editor of the Alaska Dispatch. CNN might have bothered to say so. Also, the event was held at a public school. In other words, it was a public event on public property, which makes the trespassing charge ludicrous. That’s another detail that CNN didn’t think its readers deserve to know.
Those allegations of “politicking while working for the Fairbanks North Star Borough in 2008″, incidentally, are a sore point with Joe Miller.
Last week, U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller called a press conference to talk about how his employment as an attorney at the Fairbanks North Star Borough ended. Then he canceled the press conference, saying he’d talk to reporters after a debate with his opponents before the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce.
When he talked to reporters, he said he wouldn’t be answering any more questions about his background — personal or professional.
As far as we know, reporters and Alaskans in general haven’t shown much interest in his personal life, with the possible exception of his legally required financial disclosures. Most questions have focused on his conduct of public duties.
He’s been asked about the circumstances of his departure from borough employment, including his alleged use of borough time and equipment in his political campaign to unseat Republican Party chairman Randy Ruedrich in 2008, and the hiring of his wife while serving as a federal magistrate.
It is telling that former borough mayor and state legislator Jim Whitaker decided he needed to tell what he knows of Miller’s departure from borough service. Whitaker has a well-earned reputation as a straight shooter. He preferred to stay out of this business, he said, but when Miller decided to clam up, he decided to speak up.
As Whitaker tells it, Miller has misled the public by omitting details from his professional biography. Whitaker said Miller got in trouble for ethics violations by using borough time and computers in the bid to oust Ruedrich. He said Miller was reprimanded, and that it was his understanding that Miller was about to be fired by the borough attorney when he resigned in 2009.
At some point, it may occur to Joe Miller that if he wants to kill this story, manhandling reporters like this is the wrong way to go about it. Or maybe not. Maybe Joe Miller is just not smart enough or is too hubris-blinded to see that.
In any case, whether Joe Miller likes it or not, he’s now going to be getting a lot more questions from journalists about “how his employment as an attorney at the Fairbanks North Star Borough ended”. Some of those journalists might even be inspired to try and push Joe Miller and/or his security goons over the edge again. Stand by to see how Miller and Miller’s handle the spotlight this week.
*** Update, 9:33 a.m. ***
I flagged a couple of errors and omissions by CNN in the post. Here, apparently, is another one: “The Miller campaign released a statement from William Fulton, the security guard who apprehended Hopfinger.”
The Anchorage Daily News doesn’t seem to agree:
Hopfinger has not been charged but the owner of the Drop Zone, the private security firm that’s been providing Miller’s security, accused Hopfinger of trespassing at the public event, a town hall sponsored by the Miller campaign. The owner, William Fulton, also said Hopfinger assaulted a man by shoving him.
The Anchorage Daily News also offers addition details about freedom of the press as it is practiced by Tea Party security goons:
While Hopfinger was still in handcuffs, the guards attempted to prevent other reporters from talking to him and threatened them too with arrest for trespass. A Daily News reporter interviewed Hopfinger anyway. No other reporters were arrested, though a few shoving matches and chest bumps ensued as the guards attempted to cordon off Hopfinger and block photographs and videos from being taken of the bizarre school scene.
The Miller campaign, doesn’t seem to have realized yet that a) it has anything to apologize for, and b) given that the whole incident was witnessed by other journalists, who were themselves subjected to goonery, there’s not much future in belligerent spin:
The Miller campaign released a written one-paragraph statement from Fuller, then followed with a statement titled, “Liberal Blogger ‘Loses It’ at Town Hall Meeting.” In that statement, Miller accused Hopfinger of assaulting someone and of taking advantage of the meeting to “create a publicity stunt.”
He said his personal security detail had to take action to detain “the irrational blogger.”
You have to admit, though, that it was a really well-planned and well-executed publicity stunt. Complete with a bevy of other irrational journalists on hand to perversely insist on interviewing and photographing the irrational blogger. To the point that Miller’s personal security detail had to take action to impede these other irrational journalists too.