CNN political analyst April Ryan has finally weighed in on the altercation that took place during a speaking event in New Jersey earlier this month leading to her bodyguard being charged with harassment, assault and theft.
Ryan’s bodyguard–Joel Morris, 30, of Illinois–was charged with the crimes after violently ejecting a journalist from the New Jersey Parent Summit on Aug. 3.
For weeks, her refusal to comment on the incident prompted a slew of criticism from right as well as the left. Finally, Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple on Aug. 23, urged Ryan and CNN to “speak now or relinquish your standing as First Amendment champions.”
Ryan appeared on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday to give her side of the story.
She stopped short of condemning Morris, saying only that he may have “overreacted” when he pushed Charlie Kratovil, an editor at New Brunswick Today, out of her event. And she attempted to excuse it by repeatedly claiming that he did it out of concern for her safety.
Stelter, CNN’s chief media correspondent, failed to press Ryan to explain why a journalist videotaping her event would be a threat to her safety.
Videos posted online show Kratovil being roughed up by Morris after spending two hours inside filming other guests and speakers without any problems.
Stelter began the interview by informing viewers that the reason Ryan has to have a bodyguard in the first place is because of the alleged threats she has received for “speaking out during the Trump age.”
He asked Ryan if she had given her bodyguard the orders to remove Kratovil from the premises.
Ryan insisted that the incident was “not about suppressing the press.”
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m the first person who wants to get a story out being on T.V. or radio,” she said. “And the only reason why I’ve been quiet is because of a threat, a threat of lawsuits, and my attorney said I can’t speak. But here’s the thing. This is not about suppressing the press. My body of work stands for me. And no, I did not order anyone to do anything.
At that moment what you saw was my then-bodyguard who was concerned with my safety come to me and say stop talking. They were about 100 feet away from me. I didn’t know what was going on or what was said. I was on the stage at the time.
Stelter pressed Ryan to explain why she didn’t want cameras covering her speeches. “What’s the problem with having a person videotape your speech?” he asked.
Ryan replied: “Well, you know, this was a private event for a non-profit organization in New Brunswick New Jersey. Our contract stated that if someone wanted to come and film or if they wanted to interview me, they had to ask for permission. There was no request for permission and permission was not granted.”
She added that if Kratovil had asked for permission, it would have been granted.
However, according to the Society of Professional Journalists, “Kratovil had been invited to cover the event by a public-relations firm working with the organizers, had gone through the registration system and RSVP’d his attendance.”
He did not conceal his video-recording activity, and had no outward indication that videography was prohibited in the venue. (Journalists had been freely admitted to cover other events during the Summit, including shooting video.)
Stelter asked Ryan if she regretted that her bodyguard put his hands on this reporter, saying he thought that was “completely inappropriate.”
Ryan repeated that he had acted out of concern for her safety.
“Well, again, my former contracted security personnel thought I guess I suspect was concerned for my safety,” she said.
Rather than question Ryan about how her safety might have been threatened by having a journalist videotape her speech, Stelter gave her a lifeline.
“So maybe he just overreacted. Are you saying he just overreacted?” he asked.
“Yes, yes,” Ryan replied. “And on the date after this, we reviewed this, and we decided not to contract with that organization anymore. But again, I believe, in my humble opinion or I assume that he was concerned about my safety.”
For the third time, Stelter didn’t question Ryan’s contention that the local reporter (and fellow Trump critic) Kratovil somehow posed a threat.
Instead, CNN’s chief media correspondent asked Ryan about the alleged death threats she was receiving, teeing her up to play the victime card.
“It’s a very sensitive situation. I do receive death threats,” she said. “I continue to receive death threats. The atmosphere around me is charged. And that’s one of the reasons why I assume he may have overreacted because he was concerned for my safety. But it doesn’t make you feel good to get a death threat and have to send it to the FBI and local authorities.”
Sympathetic, Stelter shared a harrowing experience he himself once endured while giving a speech at a college.
He told Ryan, ” a couple of Infowars reporters showed up, and they were asking me a bunch of questions. I just thought the best thing to do was just to talk to them rather than try to ignore them or swat away their camera because that’s not our job.”
He added: “Our job is not to stop people from asking questions, it’s to help them ask questions.”
Ryan agreed. “Right. And see that’s the issue. If someone asked for permission, I would have granted it,” she insisted.
“But sometimes your words are twisted by people who don’t necessarily understand you or what you’re saying or who have an agenda,” she added, playing the victim card again. “And that kind of thing can charge the atmosphere to create hate against me and death threats.”