E&P reminds us of an editor’s protest against the GOP’s ‘fascist’ press restrictions

J.D. Vance. Photo (cc) 2021 by Gage Skidmore.

The news media trade publication Editor & Publisher has republished a letter to readers from Chris Quinn, the editor of Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer, about press restrictions imposed by supporters of Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance. Quinn’s letter originally appeared Aug. 20, but with the campaign for the midterm elections down to their final days, it’s well worth pondering what Quinn had to say two months ago. Kudos to E&P for reminding us.

Quinn told his readers that reporters from his news organization did not attend a Vance rally featuring Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis because they could not abide by the rules that were imposed. Quinn wrote:

The worst of the rules was one prohibiting reporters from interviewing attendees not first approved by the organizers of the event for DeSantis and Vance. When we cover events, we talk to anyone we wish. It’s America, after all, the land of free speech. At least that’s America as it exists today. Maybe not the America that would exist under DeSantis and Vance.

Other beyond-the-pale rules were that any news video shot at the event would have to be shared with the organizers for promotional use; that the organizers had the right to know how any footage would be used; and that reporters could not enter the hotel rooms of anyone at the event, even if invited in for an interview. Quinn also had this to say:

Think about what they were doing here. They were staging an event to rally people to vote for Vance while instituting the kinds of policies you’d see in a fascist regime. A wannabe U.S. Senator, and maybe a wannabe president.

Wow.

The event was organized by Turning Point Action, a nonprofit associated with Donald Trump. But as Quinn rightly observed, it was essentially a Vance rally, and if he had any problems with the restrictions placed on journalists, he was notably silent about it.

Quinn concluded: “I should note that I’m writing this before the event occurred, so if something changed at the last minute, this piece would omit it.” But Turning Point did not back down, according to a piece that Jon Allsop wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review several days later. As Allsop put it:

The Turning Point rules may have been eye-catchingly baroque, but they form part of a much broader pattern of restrictions on mainstream-media access to candidates and events — a long-standing bane of political journalism that has significantly intensified on the GOP side of the aisle in the Trump era.

So here we are, on the brink of one and possibly both branches of Congress flipping back to Republican rule. There’s really no way for journalists to fight it except to refuse, and f that means giving Republican candidates less coverage, so be it. Meanwhile, the dividing of America into two camps, one small-“d” democratic and the other authoritarian — or fascist, as Quinn put it — continues apace.