West Virginia journalist arrested for asking Health Secretary Tom Price a question

He "persisted" after he got no answers and was arrested for "willful disruption of state government processes"

By Taylor Link
Published May 10, 2017 2:43PM (EDT)
Tom Price (AP/Carolyn Kaster)
Tom Price (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

Dan Heyman, a veteran reporter for the Public News Service, was arrested on Tuesday in Charleston, West Virginia, for doing his job.

The West Virginia-based journalist was working on a story about whether domestic violence would be considered a pre-existing condition under the GOP health care bill, so he went on Tuesday to the West Virginia state capitol where President Donald Trump's secretary of health and human services, Tom Price, was visiting to learn more about the opioid crisis.

Heyman said that he approached Price in the hallways of the capitol and repeatedly asked him if domestic violence is a pre-existing condition. Price refused to answer questions, but Heyman persisted anyway. Moments later Heyman was handcuffed and arrested for "willful disruption of state government processes."

After the incident Tim DiPiero, Heyman's attorney, told reporters, "He had no intention of doing anything but asking a tough question."

Heyman said that he has been covering health care since before the Affordable Care Act passed. "So this is well-trodden ground for me," he said.

Capitol police indicated that Heyman was being too loud and aggressive, which ultimately led to his arrest.

Lark Corbeil, the chief executive and founder of Public News Service, said Heyman’s arrest took the organization “very much by surprise,” The Washington Post reported.

“From what we can understand, he did nothing out of the ordinary,” Corbeil said in an interview with the Post. “He was doing what any journalist would normally do, calling out a question and trying to get an answer.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia promptly released a statement Tuesday condemning the arrest: "Mr. Heyman’s arrest is a blatant attempt to chill an independent, free press. The charges against him are outrageous, and they must be dropped immediatelym" the statement noted.

"What President Trump’s administration is forgetting, and what the Capitol Police forgot today, is that the government works for us," the statement added. "Today was a dark day for democracy. But the rule of law will prevail. The First Amendment will prevail."

Watch Heyman address reporters after his release from jail:

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