By Nicole Schulte and Rebecca Kemble
Governor Scott Walker and his staff are taking extraordinary steps to control his public image and protect him from the public outrage his policies have engendered. Yesterday, these measures included kicking out independent journalists from a press conference.
On Wednesday, Governor Scott Walker held a press briefing at the Tommy G. Thompson Commerce Center to unveil a new Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. marketing initiative promoting Wisconsin’s pro-business climate. In his remarks, Walker stated, “Wisconsin has already improved its image as a business-friendly state.”
It doesn’t appear Walker is interested in improving his own image among certain members of the press, however. In an effort to block access to independent journalists, the entire media group, which was already set up in a first floor conference room, was asked to move to a more secure room on the sixth floor of the building.
The move caused congestion with about twenty members of the press and all their equipment jammed up in the hall outside the elevator. State officials checked the press credentials for a second time before allowing people onto the elevators. Once on the sixth floor, several independent journalists, including Jenna Pope and Arthur Kohl-Riggs, were denied access to the room by four Capitol Police officers.
These enhanced security measures delayed the press conference by 45 minutes.
Once in the room, Scott Walker’s Communications Director and former Karl Rove associate Jocelyn Webster ejected a WCCA-credentialed photojournalist for not displaying her press credentials (even though she is well-known photographer in the Capitol), and scanned the room in hopes of targeting more non-preapproved reporters. Members of the public who pay for the state-owned building and to whom the governor is accountable as a public servant, were also blocked from attending the press conference.
Even though these journalists were excluded, Walker still had to answer some tough questions. These related to a letter to the WEDC from the federal government saying that the agency is not legally permitted to award federal funds since it is not technically a state agency after Walker’s administration created it as a semi-privatized agency.