In her appearance with Stelter, Ryan, who no longer employs Morris, attempted a number of excuses for the episode and her reaction to it. Here they are:
Excuse: “The only reason why I’ve been quiet is because of a threat, a threat of lawsuits, and my attorney said I can’t speak.”
Why it’s a crock: We asked Ryan what lawyer provided this advice and requested a copy of the lawsuit-threatening letter. In this case, the most obvious plaintiff would be Kratovil himself, who says he never retained counsel but did issue this statement on Aug. 19: “Because Ms. Ryan has failed to publicly address or apologize for her role in this ugly incident, I am now seeking legal counsel to initiate proceedings that will hold her accountable for the unacceptable and illegal behavior of her employee."
Over her decades in journalism, Ryan has surely learned that no-comment-because-of-possible-litigation is the most evasive dodge in the corporate world.
Excuse: “At that moment what you saw was my then-bodyguard who was concerned with my safety come to me and say stop talking. They were about 100 feet away from me. I didn’t know what was going on or what was said. I was on the stage at the time."
Why it’s a crock: Here, Ryan is referring to the moment on the videotape when Morris appears to say something to her. She nods, and he then makes his way toward Kratovil’s video equipment. After the exchange, Ryan does stop talking from the lectern. After about 30 seconds of silence, she explains to the crowd, "When I speak, I do not have news covering my speeches.” Furthermore, Kratovil told the Erik Wemple Blog that Morris first approached him earlier in the event; Kratovil gave him his business card, at which point Morris returned to Ryan’s table.
Taken together, these events — Morris’s approach of Kratovil; Ryan’s quick interaction with the bodyguard; her silence; the anti-news statement — suggest that Ryan had a darn good idea of “what was going on.”
Excuse: “Well, you know, this was a private event for a nonprofit organization in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Our contract stated that if someone wanted to come and film or if they wanted to interview me, they had to ask for permission. There was no request for permission, and permission was not granted. Now, if they would have asked for permission, it would have been granted. And the reason why I do this, one it’s standard in the industry, and two because I don’t want my words twisted.”
Why it’s a crock: First, the “private” nonsense: Journalists hear this all the time from organizations and people wishing to avoid accountability. The Fourth Annual New Jersey Parents Summit was held in a hotel ballroom with tables and tables of attendees, including a U.S. congressman, and media coverage. If that’s “private,” what’s public? Second, the “contract” nonsense: If a contract requires that you, a journalist and a First Amendment champion, eject news reporters from your events, don’t sign the contract. Problem solved. Third, the “permission” nonsense: Kratovil tells the Erik Wemple Blog that he was invited to attend the event and received no warning about restrictions on coverage. Fourth, the “words twisted" nonsense: Kratovil was videotaping the proceedings; videotape has a history of outing and shaming those who would twist words.
Does Ryan have any misgivings about the situation? Well, she had every opportunity to express them, as Stelter asked her about any regrets “that the bodyguard put his hands on this reporter? To me, that’s completely inappropriate.”
Ryan responded, “Well, again, my former contracted security personnel thought — I guess, I suspect — was concerned for my safety." No mention of regrets, then.
Morris was charged with assault for the episode. One hopes the outcome of the case will allow Ryan to align her statements on this outrage with her former status as a champion of the First Amendment.
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