CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Police said a journalist was arrested after yelling questions at U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price during his visit to West Virginia.
The exchange came as Price and senior white House aide Kellyanne Conway visited the state Capitol in Charleston on Tuesday to learn about efforts to fight opioid addiction in a state that has the nation's highest overdose death rate.
Capital police said in a criminal complaint that Daniel Ralph Heyman, 54, was yelling questions at the two. It says he tried to breach Secret Service security and had to be removed from a hallway at the Capitol.
He was charged with willful disruption of governmental processes, a misdemeanor, and later was released on $5,000 bond.
Heyman, who works for Public News Service, said he was arrested after asking repeatedly whether domestic violence would be considered a pre-existing condition under the proposed health care overhaul.
Heyman said he's been a journalist for three decades and has been with Public News Service since 2009. He said he believed he was doing nothing wrong.
"I'm not sure why, but at some point, I think they decided I was just too persistent in asking this question and trying to do my job and so they arrested me," he said during a news conference that was posted on Facebook by the West Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The ACLU chapter said in a statement that Heyman's arrest "is a blatant attempt to chill an independent, free press. The charges against him are outrageous, and they must be dropped immediately."
The statement added the ACLU "stands ready to fight any attempt by the government to infringe upon our First Amendment rights. What President Trump's administration is forgetting, and what the Capitol Police forgot today, is that the government works for us. Today was a dark day for democracy. But the rule of law will prevail. The First Amendment will prevail."
According to its website, Boulder, Colorado-based Public News Service manages independent news services in 36 states, reporting on a variety of social, community, and environmental issues. No one at the service could be reached for comment early Wednesday.