Maricopa County To Pay $175K For Denying Reporter Access To County Proceedings

Maricopa County To Pay $175K For Denying Reporter Access To County Proceedings

By Corinne Murdock |

Maricopa County agreed to pay a $175,000 settlement for denying press credentials to a reporter during last year’s election.

Approval of the settlement passed during the county board of supervisors’ meeting on Wednesday without discussion. 

The county’s denial meant that the reporter, from the Gateway Pundit, couldn’t attend their press conferences. The county denied the press pass on the grounds that they didn’t believe the reporter was objective and apolitical enough for their tastes. In response, the outlet sued the county in TGP Communications v. Sellers.

In December, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the county to issue the outlet a press pass while the litigation continued in December. The court further asserted that the county likely violated the First Amendment and discriminated against the outlet based on the reporter’s political views.

“Permitting ‘truth’ to be determined by the county violates our foundational notions of a free press,” stated the order. 

When Maricopa County rolled out its press passes last September, Recorder Stephen Richer tweeted what appeared to be an agreement — and even celebration — of a statement that the county was going to prevent The Gateway Pundit from attending county press conferences and other events.

Later, around the time of the lawsuit’s filing, Richer deleted the tweet. Richer told AZ Free News that he didn’t have a specific reason for deleting the tweet, just that he occasionally deletes posts that he dislikes or deems to be unproductive in hindsight.

The county’s press pass application page remained active until around January 2023. It required the journalist’s contact information, address, dates of planned coverage, work samples, and a pledge that they didn’t have a conflict of interest or association involvement that would compromise their journalistic integrity. 

It also required journalists to promise they didn’t receive compensation or special treatment from advertisers or political organizations that would influence their coverage, and that they weren’t a lobbyist, advertiser, paid advocate, or influencer for any individual, political party, corporation, or organization.

A month after initiating the press passes system, the county launched a disinformation center. They further declared a limit to press access on county property. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

Gateway Pundit Published Falsified Draft of Maricopa County Audit Report

Gateway Pundit Published Falsified Draft of Maricopa County Audit Report

By Corinne Murdock |

A purported draft of the Maricopa County election audit report calling for decertification has been circulating online since the official audit report on Friday. This version of the audit report called for decertification of the 2020 election results. The Gateway Pundit, a right-leaning news outlet, originally published the purported draft. In a press release response on Monday, the auditing company Cyber Ninjas asserted that the draft and its recommendations of decertification weren’t real.

The Gateway Pundit draft is not the same draft audit report leaked to media outlets last Friday prior to the Senate presentation. That draft audit report is valid, whereas the one in which Cyber Ninjas recommended decertification isn’t valid.

This “draft” of the audit report was uploaded to Scribd by Jim Hoft, founder and editor-in-chief of Gateway Pundit. It was then reported on by Joe Hoft, Jim’s twin brother, in an article published Sunday afternoon, “Arizona Audit Final Report Was Watered Down: Reports from Cyber Ninjas Were Edited, Most Damning Statements Removed – What Else Was Removed?”

AZ Free News reached out to Gateway Pundit to inquire about the origins of this draft report. They didn’t offer a response by press time.

The PR team for Cyber Ninjas, the Thomson Group, issued a statement on Monday that the draft audit report from Gateway Pundit was falsified and wasn’t from Cyber Ninjas.

There is a false version of the Executive Summary of the Maricopa County Forensic Election Audit report that is circulating. This false version claims to be an earlier version of the Cyber Ninjas Executive Summary, but because of supposed threats from the Senate, it was not used. This is absolutely false.

The exact origins to the Executive Summary found at the following scribd link are unknown. But it was not written by Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, nor was it any version that was ever sent or shown to the Senate for review. Specifically, this false version of the Executive Summary states, ‘the election should not be certified.’

This was not written by Cyber Ninjas. It is Cyber Ninjas’ perspective that whether an election should or should not be certified is to be determined by the legislature, and not auditors. The audit team’s job is to supply all the facts and findings surrounding the election and recommend legislative reforms.

We followed up with the Thomson Group to ask if they’d determined the source for this falsified draft report. They didn’t respond by press time, either.

According to The Gateway Pundit’s Ethics and Editorial Standards, their publication focuses on relaying truth and exemplifying virtue.

“All our content should be true. No value is more important than this. […] All Gateway Pundit content should be excellent, both in production and in the promotion of virtue. […] We must have courage in order [to] expose the truth about powerful interests that may be angered by our coverage.”

The Senate’s liaison to the audit, Randy Pullen, confirmed with the Arizona Capitol Times that the draft audit report calling for decertification was fake. As of press time, Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott) hasn’t issued any statements on this purported audit draft.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to