Reporter Arrested While Covering News Conference in Ohio
A reporter who was covering a news conference on the train derailment in Ohio that led to the release of toxic fumes was arrested following a live shot on Wednesday, after officers told him to be quiet while the governor spoke, according to the cable news show where he works, “NewsNation.”
The reporter, Evan Lambert, had been waiting for the news conference in East Palestine, Ohio, to start at 3 p.m., but it was delayed until about 5.p.m. The later time coincided with when he was scheduled to do a live shot for the show, Mike Viqueira, the Washington Bureau Chief of “NewsNation,” said in an interview on Wednesday night.
Mr. Lambert was charged with disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing, according to Lt. Seth Fraser of the Columbiana County Jail in Ohio. Lieutenant Fraser said in a brief interview on Wednesday evening that Mr. Lambert would be held in the jail overnight and arraigned on Thursday morning.
But on Wednesday night, “NewsNation” reported that Mr. Lambert had been released from jail and broadcast an interview with him moments after he was freed.
“No journalist expects to be arrested when you’re doing your job,” Mr. Lambert told “NewsNation,” noting that he could not speak in detail about the episode because the charges were still pending.
Lieutenant Fraser said that he had been fielding calls all day from people “asking why he can’t be released tonight,” referring to Mr. Lambert.
It is unclear what agencies were involved in the arrest. The East Palestine Police Department and the Columbiana County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to phone calls seeking comment on Wednesday night.
The arrest angered Mr. Lambert’s reporting colleagues.
“I’m infuriated, I’m outraged — I don’t believe this should happen anywhere in America,” said Mr. Viqueira, who spoke with Mr. Lambert on Wednesday while he was in jail. “It shocks me that law enforcement is that disdainful of the right of the press to report on the activities, comments and policies of public officials, especially in a crisis.”
Officials in Ohio had been updating residents on Wednesday about the status of the train derailment in East Palestine, about 50 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. The derailment, which happened Friday night, caused a huge fire to erupt in the town of 4,700 residents and led to the release of toxic fumes on Monday. The authorities ordered residents in the area to evacuate to avoid a deadly threat. There had been no reports of injuries or deaths from the derailment as of Monday.
On Wednesday, officials said residents could return to their homes in East Palestine.
Mr. Lambert did his live shot around 5 p.m. — away from the podium for officials that was set up in the gymnasium — and reported the news quietly, Mr. Viquiera said.
“He wrapped his live shot as soon as he realized the governor was speaking,” Mr. Viqueira said, adding that Mr. Lambert had also wanted to hear what officials would say.
As the governor, Mike DeWine, shared an update that residents would be allowed to return home, local law enforcement officials walked up to Mr. Lambert and told him that he was “out of line for talking when the governor was talking,” Mr. Viqueira said.
Mr. Lambert is heard saying in a video from WKYC Studios, a television station, “I’m doing my job.”
He told the four officers not to touch him as they circled around him. Then the officers and Mr. Lambert moved toward a hallway, where two officers placed Mr. Lambert on the ground on his stomach, video of the encounter shows. A witness can be heard saying, “Oh my God, you guys this is bad, stop.”
When asked by other reporters at the news conference about the episode, Mr. DeWine said that it has always been his practice to allow reporters to talk to viewers live as he speaks at news conferences.
“If someone was stopped from doing that, or told they could not do that, that was wrong,” he said. “It was nothing that I authorized and certainly would be something I would not want to see happen.”