CENSOR: Renee Ellmers Locks Out Reporters

J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press
J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC), a liberal Republican congresswoman from North Carolina, censored the press in her district on Tuesday—refusing to allow credentialed members of the media to ask legitimate questions of the congresswoman about her alleged affair with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy or about the House Speakership race.

“5:30-Shut out of an interview w Rep.Renee Ellmers bc of the controversial House Speaker question we wanted to ask,” Nicole Carr, a reporter for the local ABC affiliate ABC 11 WTVD, Tweeted, with a screenshot of the video of Ellmers’ communications director Blair Ellis holding a door shut in front of them.

In an earlier Tweet, Carr reported that Ellmers “opts against speaking” to her television station because “In addition to vet job fair we wanted to ask abt Speaker, affair rumor.”

Video of the local news broadcast shows anchors Joel Brown and Anna Laurel setting up Carr’s package, which aired including footage of Ellmers and her staffer Ellis kicking out the local news crew.

Brown noted that the U.S. House Speaker’s race is in “chaos,” before Laurel said: “Ellmers was in Fayetteville this afternoon addressing veterans and her team made it very clear that was all she was talking about.”

After cutting to Carr, Laurel asked her reporter: “You were shut out—Ellmers refused to do an interview with you.”

Carr said on screen:

Yep—and it was really simple. We just agreed to disagree. Ellmers’ team set some ground rules. They said it was okay to talk with her about the veterans’ job fair but we could not ask any questions about the Speaker’s debacle. Those questions included anything about that rumored affair between Ellmers and Representative Kevin McCarthy, which of course made national headlines last week and sent the entire Speaker’s race into a spiral. So they said that would add fuel to the fire to something that is simply a rumor. Two media outlets agreed to the rules—and we did not. And so, after waiting for Ellmers to speak with employers and vets we were following other reporters into an interview room and this is what happened.

From there, the package cuts to the video of Ellis—Ellmers’ press secretary—holding a door shut in front of television cameras while a security guard walks out of the room to stand guard.

“We can’t interview her?” Carr asked Ellis.

“If y’all are going to—“ Ellis begins answering while the camera was rolling. Once she realized the camera was rolling, she looked into the lens and smiled before asking: “Hi, am I on the record?”

“Yes,” Carr replied to Ellis.

“The Congresswoman is going to be discussing the veterans’ jobs event today given that that is what today’s event is for,” Ellis said. “Thanks y’all.”

Ellis turned to open the shuttered door to walk back inside before Carr asked a follow-up.

“Can we talk to her about that?” Carr said.

“About the job fair, yes,” Ellis replied, pushing through the door. “And only the job fair.”

“Alright,” Carr replied, as Ellis slipped back inside the room, ducking. “There we go.”

The news outlet aired a package with extra footage of Ellmers and the sound of Carr explaining more about the scandal.  Carr continued:

So Ellmers was in Fayetteville for her signature recruiting event. It was one of her first appearances since her closed-door meeting with GOP leaders on Friday in Washington. There, Ellmers denied that affair with McCarthy calling the rumor ‘bat—expletive—crazy.’ McCarthy as you know bowed out of the House Speaker’s race on Thursday leaving the party scrambling for an alternative. That whole deal is still very much muddy and that headline is still very much unclear. Ellmers later issued a statement calling the insider allegations part of a smear campaign saying she would be praying for those who find it acceptable to bear false witness. But today she wouldn’t talk—at least not to us. She dismissed the allegations in a local radio interview earlier this morning and after we were denied access to Ellmers this morning her spokesperson came back around to offer this.

From there it cuts to video of Ellis—Ellmers’ press secretary—saying that Ellmers is a “tough cookie” and a “great lady” and that she “looks forward to continuing to serve those in the second district with honor and integrity.”

The local ABC station is hardly the only one that wouldn’t agree to Ellis’ censorship on Ellmers’ behalf.

According to video from Time Warner Cable News of Central North Carolina–a network that broadcasts statewide in North Carolina–Ellis appeared on camera denying reporters from that outlet the opportunity to ask about anything other than the job fair “out of respect to the servicemen and women seeking employment opportunities.”

In an interview with Fayetteville’s News Talk 640 WFNC radio before she went to the job fair, Ellmers pushed back on the scandal again.

“It’s unfortunately part of the deal that you hold yourself to when you run for office for any elected position,” Ellmers said on that show. “Now, we’re held to a higher standard, and I completely accept that. I just wish everyone would play fair.”

Ellis, when asked why it is acceptable in her view and the congresswoman’s view to censor the news media, told Breitbart News that the Congresswoman backed her decision and thought it was okay. Ellis said in an email to Breitbart News:

In regards to fielding questions regarding veterans and members of the military during a military-centered event: Congresswoman Ellmers was committed to making the focus of today’s event about the veterans, their families, and the service men and women who were seeking employment opportunities. As the representative of Fort Bragg she was dedicated to spending time with members of the military and local employers, as this was the purpose of today’s Veterans Job Fair.

She added that reporters were told of the censorship in advance of the job fair.

McCarthy spokesman Matt Sparks, the representative of the other side of the alleged affair that both parties still deny, has not responded to a request for comment on whether he and McCarthy believe that censorship of the news media is acceptable—and whether Ellis’ and Ellmers’ actions were okay.

Last week, McCarthy suddenly dropped a bid for the House Speakership after Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) sent a letter to House GOP conference chairwoman Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) warning all GOP leadership candidates to abandon their bids should they have “skeletons in their closets” when it comes to issues of moral turpitude.

“We’ve seen it with former Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Bob Livingston, who ran for Speaker in 1998,” Jones wrote, referencing two previous GOP leaders who were forced out of office due to questionable moral activity each engaged in.

Ellmers–whose liberal record on abortion, immigration, trade, and more issues has drawn no less than three separate primary challengers against her–has had a troubled relationship with the news media for years. Appearing on national talker Laura Ingraham’s radio program last cycle and questioned about her support for amnesty for illegal aliens, Ellmers blasted Ingraham live on the air as “ignorant” and “small-minded” and even at one point dipped into referring to herself in the third person to say: “Renee Ellmers thinks for herself.”

Ellmers is in serious danger of losing her congressional seat in the upcoming primaries, since last go-around sole challenger Frank Roche won 42 percent of the vote against Ellmers with barely any campaign cash. This go-around, Roche is back and much-more-well-funded, and two other challengers, Kay Daly and Jim Duncan, are in the race as well. It’s unclear who is going to end up emerging as the strongest to defeat Ellmers, but it’s widely expected that, with Ellmers’ liberal record and this alleged affair emerging, she won’t be able to survive the primary. Some on Capitol Hill expected Ellmers and McCarthy to both resign from Congress sometime this week, but that hasn’t happened yet at all. Both of their futures are in doubt.

This all comes after House Speaker John Boehner announced his resignation after Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) put forward a previous motion to vacate the chair–a fancy term for removing Boehner as Speaker of the House. Boehner announced his resignation after Meadows and his allies in the conservative wing of the House GOP conference acquired enough Republican votes to ensure Boehner would not win reelection as House Speaker without support from Democrats. The House remains in limbo as Boehner sticks around until a plausible replacement emerges.

Many in the political establishment have been attempting to draft House Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to run for Speaker–but Ryan, under increasing scrutiny from conservatives for his support of amnesty for illegal aliens and open borders immigration policies, among other liberal beliefs, has thus far decided to hold off on a run for Speaker. Several other members, including Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Ryan Zinke (R-MT), Bill Flores (R-TX), and many more have considered runs for the Speakership. Two other candidates–Reps. Daniel Webster (R-FL), the former Speaker of the Florida House, and House Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)–are still running. Both Webster and Chaffetz were running against McCarthy.


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