New Maine Times reporter caught up in partisan sniping at House vote

Posted Wednesday, May 22, 2013 in Investigation

New Maine Times reporter caught up in partisan sniping at House vote

by Gina Hamilton

AUGUSTA -- New Maine Times statehouse reporter Andi Parkinson was caught up in a political skirmish during a heated floor vote late Tuesday night on LD 1546, when she was asked to remove herself from the floor of the House at the request of Rep. Ken Fredette, R-Newport.

Parkinson, whose video of Gov. Paul LePage's appearance at the special Sunday work session of the Appropriations Committee where DHHS funding was being discussed made the rounds of television news throughout the state, was targeted by Fredette, although no other reporters were asked to leave.  The Sun Journal and the Bangor Daily News also had reporters in the statehouse that night, and MPBN was filming.

Despite multiple requests, Fredette did not respond to a request for comment by presstime.

According to Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick and Majority Leader Seth Berry,  D-Bowdoinham, Fredette asked that Parkinson be removed because she had worked for DirigoBlue, a progressive news organization, in the past. 

Berry asked Parkinson to remove her equipment to the gallery or to leave.  Parkinson chose to leave, as the proceedings were nearly over.

Berry apologized when Parkinson's editor contacted him later that night.  "We fully understand the New Maine Times' concern about government transparency and press freedom," he said. 

Speaker Eves also apologized. "Clearly this was not our finest hour," he said.  "I give the New Maine Times my assurances that this will never happen again."

The bill passed on a nearly party line vote, 87-57, with one Democrat voting with the minority.  The bill had already passed the Senate on a party line vote. Earlier Tuesday, Senate Democrats also rejected Republican efforts to separate the two proposals. The bill faces more votes before being sent to Governor LePage, who has promised to veto it even though he has made repaying the hospitals a top priority this session.

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