Meg Kissinger is a seasoned reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin’s well-known newspaper. She’s seen a lot in her days. But what she said happened at a speech by Michelle Obama in the state on Monday left her utterly “creeped out.”
Kissinger took to her Facebook and Twitter page to describe what happened. In short, she said, aides for both the first lady and Wisconsin Democratic candidate for governor, Mary Burke, told her she was banned from talking to members of the crowd.
Kissinger was in Hudson, Wisconsin, covering the first lady’s speech in which she was stumping for Burke.
“[A]ssigned to cover Michelle Obama’s speech today and was told by a Mary Burke aide and one for the White House that I could not speak to the people in the crowd,” she said on her Facebook page. “To say that I was creeped out is an understatement. This is what reporters do in America: we speak to people. At least that’s how I’ve been doing things — at all kinds of political events — since 1979.”
In a follow-up comment to her post, she added that she’s “never seen anything like it in 35 years as a reporter”:
The odd encounter did make it into her story for the Journal Sentinel [emphasis added]:
At the Burke event, a number of people in the crowd were upset about a lack of seating. Several people, including a woman using two canes, complained that she had nowhere to sit.
Reporters and photographers were cordoned off in a central area with chairs and tables. Several people in the crowd asked if they could have extra chairs reserved for the media — but reporters were initially forbidden from handing them over. Eventually, some of the Burke staff gave the extra chairs to attendees.
Burke and White House staff also told reporters not to talk to people in the crowd before the event.
Kissinger’s encounter bolsters charges by the media that the administration is one of the most guarded ever.