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.