Last night, private security guards hired by Republican senate candidate Joe Miller handcuffed the editor of the Alaska Dispatch after he kept questioning and following Miller, who was leaving an Anchorage school where he had just conducted a town hall meeting.
The editor, Tony Hopfinger, remained handcuffed until the Anchorage police arrived and ordered him to be released, reported the Anchorage Daily News.
“While I’ve gotten used to the blog Alaska Dispatch’s assault on me and my family, I never thought that it would lead to a physical assault,” said Miller in a statement. “It’s too bad that this blogger would take advantage of a ‘Town Hall’ meeting to create a publicity stunt just two weeks before the election.”
The security firm, Drop Zone, said that Hopfinger was trespassing and shoved a man. Hopfinger had been trying to question Miller about his time working as an attorney at the Fairbanks North Star Borough, which had recently been in the news after a former borough mayor alleged that Miller had used the borough computer for partisan political activities. (The Miller campaign responded by noting that Miller had not been fired at the time of the alleged computer misuse, but voluntarily resigned months later.)
Hopfinger acknowledges that he shoved a man, but also said that he was encircled by Miller security guards and supporters, which made him feel threatened. There has been no decision made yet by the Anchorage District Attorney’s office on whether Hopfinger will be prosecuted.
Here’s the Miller campaign’s account of the incident:
The Miller campaign was required by the facility to provide security at the event. Even though Joe had spent nearly an hour freely answering questions from those in attendance, the blogger chased Miller to the exit after the event concluded in an attempt to create and then record a ‘confrontation’ with the candidate. While Miller attempted to calmly exit the facility, the blogger physically assaulted another individual and made threatening gestures and movements towards the candidate. At that point the security personnel had to take action and intervened and detained the irrational blogger, whose anger overcame him. It is also important to note that the security personnel did not know that the individual they detained was a blogger who reporting on the campaign. To them, the blogger appeared irrational, angry and potentially violent.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Democrat senate candidate Scott McAdams both condemned the incident.
“This behavior is particularly disturbing, especially for someone who claims to be a ‘constitutional conservative.’ Apparently Joe Miller has forgotten both the first and fourth amendments to the United States Constitution,” said Murkowski in a statement. “Joe Miller should immediately issue an apology to the editor of the Alaska Dispatch, a legitimate member of the Alaska press corps, who he had handcuffed by a private security firm. We call on him to immediately disavow the actions of his private security guards for violating the constitutional rights of a United States citizen by illegally detaining him. I find it alarming that Joe feels he needs to hire security forces to protect him from Alaskan voters and members of the press.”
“In case you were unaware, the Constitution also applies to reporters,” tweeted McAdams.
UPDATE: For those interested, a couple more accounts of the incident: Red County blogger Thomas Lamb was present, and thinks Hopfinger “crossed the line” into harassment, while Hopfinger gives a more detailed account of the incident to an Alaska Dispatch writer.