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NewsNation reporter ‘hostile’ before arrest, official says

A correspondent with Nexstar Media Group’s cable news upstart NewsNation was creating a disturbance at a press conference on Wednesday before he was escorted out of the room and ultimately arrested by police, a government official said in a statement on Thursday.

The statement, obtained by NewsNation and published online in full, was made by Adjutant Major General John Harris of the Ohio National Guard. In the statement, Harris claimed NewsNation correspondent Evan Lambert was upset by a request to remain quiet while Ohio Governor Mike DeWine was speaking at a press conference on the aftermath of a train derailment.

Lambert was reporting live for NewsNation during the channel’s “Rush Hour” program when he was approached by a member of the Ohio National Guard and asked to stop broadcasting. It was later revealed that officials were concerned that Lambert’s live report from inside a gymnasium where the press conference took place was overpowering the governor’s ability to speak to the media.

According to Harris’ statement, Lambert was confrontational with officials inside the gymnasium after he ended his broadcast with NewsNation, accusing officials of making things more difficult for the news media when they delayed the press conference for more than two hours.

Harris said he offered to work with Lambert “to find a more suitable location” for NewsNation’s live broadcasts during the press conference, but Lambert ultimately refused to leave the immediate area where the governor was speaking.

“He then became enraged — his eyes opened wide, he stared at me while very aggressively lurching at me, [and] he screamed, ‘you guys are the one who strung this thing out,'” Harris said. “At that point, I was convinced he was prepared to do harm to me. I instinctively put my hands on his chest to keep him from bumping into me, which I felt was inevitable if I had not protected myself.”

Two videos of the encounter reviewed by The Desk showed Lambert confronting officers after being asked to leave, but the videos did not show the reporter speaking aggressively or physically touching anyone. Instead, Lambert refused to leave the building when asked by police, asserting his First Amendment right to observe the governor’s press conference inside the gymnasium.

At one point, a law enforcement official grabs Lambert by the arm and pulls him through a doorway, at which point Lambert asks the officer not to touch him. A struggle ensues, and two plainclothes officers wrestle Lambert to the ground and take him into custody.

Nearby, reporters are heard challenging the officers and the arrest. Lambert is ultimately escorted out of the building in a pair of pink handcuffs, placed into the back of a sheriff’s vehicle and driven to the Columbiana County Jail, where he was held for several hours before his release Wednesday evening.

Lambert still faces criminal charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct. It was not clear when he will be arraigned in court, or whether the charges will ultimately be dismissed.

Speaking about the incident on Wednesday, DeWine said he had no problem with reporters conducting live broadcasts during his press conference.

“If someone was stopped from doing that, or told they could not do that, that was wrong. It was nothing that I authorized,” DeWine said.

DeWine ultimately called officials at the Columbiana County Jail and urged for Lambert’s release, a source familiar with the matter told The Desk on Wednesday. A spokesperson for the governor’s office declined to comment about the incident.

Speaking with NewsNation’s Ashleigh Banfield, Lambert said he was simply trying to do his job in the moments leading up to his arrest.

“No one — no journalist — expects to be arrested when you’re doing your job, and I think that’s really important that doesn’t happen in our country,” Lambert said.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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