(NewsNation) — NewsNation correspondent Evan Lambert finished his live report from a news conference with Ohio’s governor Wednesday but was then told to leave by authorities, who tried to forcibly remove him from the room.
George Washington University journalism professor Frank Sesno said he was “very disturbed” by the physical force being used on Lambert.
“Usually, law enforcement understands what you are doing. … Not only do they understand what you’re doing as a reporter, they want to support that because they want clear information to get out to the public. Something went really weirdly off the rails from my assessment of this. … Where did this order come from?” Sesno asked host Ashleigh Banfield on NewsNation’s “Banfield.”
Lambert was released from the Columbiana County Jail shortly after 10 p.m. ET. Wednesday.
“I’m doing fine right now. It’s been an extremely long day,” Lambert said after his release. “No journalist expects to be arrested when you’re doing your job, and I think that’s really important that that doesn’t happen in our country.”
“Evan Lambert wasn’t doing anything wrong. He wasn’t being belligerent. He wasn’t being disobedient. He wasn’t being annoying,” criminal defense attorney Bernarda Villalona said on “Early Morning.” “So in terms of the sheriff going forward with giving him the charges, it’ll be up to the prosecution and a reasonable prosecutor should dismiss these charges in the interest of justice.”
In a statement to NewsNation, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s office said the governor’s position is that the interruption to Lambert’s broadcast should not have taken place.
“As the governor said at the conclusion of today’s briefing, he has always respected the media’s right to report live before, during, and after his press briefings,” the statement said. “Because the governor did not witness what occurred after the broadcast ended, we cannot provide comment on what led to the reporter’s arrest.”
Attorney and legal analyst Jesse Weber explored police justification of Lambert’s arrest, saying that there are still details that are unknown about the situation.
“My guess would be that if the officers believed he was engaging in disorderly conduct, that is what led to criminal trespass. He might have had the right to be there but based on his conduct, they decided he didn’t have the right to be there,” Weber said.
He continued, “Now again, are they justified? Was it a violation of his First Amendment rights? This is something that is going to have to develop and see.”
Weber said that while Freedom of the Press is a sacred, fundamental right in our country, it’s not an absolute right. He explained that if someone — a reporter — were to engage in criminal trespass — being somewhere where they’re not supposed to be — or disorderly conduct that’s when it might step over the line.
“These kinds of live hits happen across the country all the time,” Weber said. “Why they felt the need to use such force on Evan is beyond me. I don’t quite understand it.”
Radio host Bill Cunningham also weighed in on “Banfield” and said that if NewsNation didn’t stay on top of their reporter being arrested at a news conference, he would still be in jail.
“What happens in small-town Ohio counties is significantly different … these prosecutors and these sheriffs run the place,” Cunningham said on “Banfield.” “When I’m watching Evan being chicken-winged and thrown down on the concrete floor, that is outrageous and that doesn’t happen except in small-town Ohio. … I’m so proud of NewsNation for doing what they’re doing.”