Clay Calvert Comments on Press Ban During Gov. DeSantis Voting Bill Signing
Clay Calvert, director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project and Brechner Eminent Scholar in Mass Communication at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications, was quoted in “Fox News Says It Didn’t’ Know DeSantis Would Bar Other Press from Bill Signing” published in the Miami Herald on May 7.
The article focuses on Gov. Ron DeSantis exclusive appearance on Fox News to sign a controversial bill changing mail-in voting in Florida. Only the Fox News cameras captured the moment. All other media affiliates were banned from covering the event.
“A federal court in Ohio upheld that a public official cannot discriminate against journalists based on perceived bias,” said Calvert. “If this is a public proceeding, he should not have discriminated against journalists based on their perceived stand on political issues. A bill signing typically is a public proceeding.”
Calvert’s comments were also featured in a follow-up article, “’Bad Government.’ First Amendment Experts Question DeSantis’ ‘Exclusive’ Bill Signing,” posted on miamiherald.com on May 7.
According to Calvert, “Because the bill signing was a ‘public proceeding,’ DeSantis should not have been able to limit which news outlets could cover it. People who don’t have a cable subscription or who don’t watch that network wouldn’t have seen it. Unless you’re watching FOX, you’re going to be denied access to information. That’s troubling regardless of the First Amendment issues.”
Calvert also commented in “First Amendment Advocates Denounce Gov. DeSantis’ Decision to Bar Media from Bill Signing” posted on WPEC Channel 12 website, the CBS-affiliate in West Palm Beach, Florida.
“[People] who do not watch FOX are denied access to important public information. Government officials work on behalf of the citizens,” Calvert said. “What the governor has done is to discriminate against journalists based upon their viewpoint.”
Calvert pointed to a 2007 Ohio federal court decision, in which a judge determined that reporters cannot be barred from public press conferences. The question, Calvert said, is whether or not Thursday’s bill signing event would constitute a press conference.