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Unsurprisingly, Journalists Are Not Willing To Break Ethical Boundaries for JD Vance and Ron DeSantis

Ron DeSantis makes a face speaking from a podium at a Turning Point rally.

Florida Governor and presumed 2024 presidential candidate Ron DeSantis traveled to Ohio recently to stump for Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance. But a set of blatantly unethical restrictions on journalists looking to cover the event meant that very few legitimate news outlets were willing to attend.

The pairing of DeSantis and Vance makes sense, as DeSantis has been leaning in hard to opposing “wokeism” as a central tenet of his political career and Vance—aka the Hillbilly Elegy guy—literally doesn’t seem to have anything else in his entire platform. The event was being hosted by Turning Point USA, an extreme right-wing student training organization founded by Charlie Kirk. In all, it’s hardly surprising that this group of professional trolls would try to intimidate and control media outlets.

A number of local journalists, including Morgan Trau as seen below, posted the restrictions online. Reporters at the rally would would not be allowed to film speakers and anyone else who didn’t want to be recorded; they couldn’t film or record media presented on screen; they can’t interview attendees in their hotel rooms and in fact, all interviews would have to be requested and approved ahead of time.

Probably most troubling restriction of all, reporters have to agree to turn over all their footage for review and approval by Turning Point upon request, and have to be willing to answer questions about what that material will be used for. That’s not how journalism works!

The president and executive director of the Ohio News Media Association, Monica Nieporte, told The Washington Post, “We strongly discourage our members from agreeing to any conditions which could lead to their content being censored or altered by a third party not affiliated with their media outlet.” Because there really is no other reason to retain the right to see that material besides wanting to be able to control its dissemination.

“We do not agree that the Unite & Win Rally has any standing to be asking for blanket access to the content that is created by journalists in exchange for permission to cover their event,” Nieporte told the Post. “The journalists work for their media outlet and not for the Vance campaign. Their content is owned by their employer.”

Editors at and The Plain Dealer published a letter explaining why they refused to cover the event, writing “we didn’t accept the limitations, because they end up skewing the facts. If we can speak only with attendees chosen by the candidate, we don’t get a true accounting of what people thought of the event. You get spin from the most ardent supporters.”

It’s not surprising that reporters would not be willing to throw away their journalistic integrity for this pair of free-speech trampling clowns. But it’s still pretty scary to see political candidates create systems for themselves that walls off legitimate news coverage of their campaigns.

(image: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.