Banana republic behaviour: Rebel reporter on his ejection & arrest at Conservative campaign event

Reporters being bounced from campaign events or prevented from covering them all together has unfortunately become a storyline in this year’s federal election.

Jason Unrau Montreal QC

Rebel Media reporter David Menzies is a little shaken up, but says “all things considered, I’m still ticking,” after being physically ejected from a Conservative campaign event in Whitby, Ontario, then later arrested by Andrew Scheer’s RCMP security detail.

“They grabbed my equipment, my microphone. They threw my phone that I was filming with on the hood of the SUV, they threw me over the hood to handcuff me,” Menzies told The Post Millennial, adding that the Conservatives’ campaign bus hit him as he was trying to question Scheer.

“I was somewhat astonished. Scheer has publicly stated that he’s for freedom of speech, and for freedom of the press and what we saw today is the kind of thing you see in a banana republic dictatorship.”

A campaign insider for Conservatives told TPM that Menzies jumped in front of the moving campaign bus, while Menzies said, “there was a stop sign, he was at the mandated stop sign and I started to try and ask questions.”

“I don’t want anybody to get the idea that I jumped into a live lane of traffic,” Menzies added.

Reporters getting bounced from campaign events or prevented from covering them altogether has become an unfortunate storyline in this year’s federal election.

Last week, the Liberal Party prevented True North reporter Andrew Lawton from attending several campaign events featuring Justin Trudeau. The party has since apologized to Lawton but has not indicated whether the reporter would be “accredited” for future events.

And while police were involved twice in the Lawton affair – once in Hamilton where the reporter was pulled over for following Trudeau’s campaign bus and again in Thunder Bay where police tossed him from a Liberal event – the journalist was never handled or arrested.

Enter the Conservatives, whose participation in Menzies’ aggressive ejection, then his subsequent arrest on Monday – Conservatives also say Menzies was not “accredited” – contradicts statements Scheer made only last week about providing greater media access.

Asked by TPM publisher Matthew Azrieli about police harassment of Lawton, Scheer responded that he is, “allowing for questions from all different types of outlets.”

“I have been running a very open and transparent campaign, allowing for questions from all different types of outlets. We have a very open accreditation process,” said the Conservative leader.

“So I’m actually going to commit to being open and transparent with journalists. I think it’s a fundamental part of our democracy.”

Corey Hann, director of communications for the Conservative Party, declined to elaborate on what Scheer meant by “all different types of outlets” or whether the Conservatives would decline to speak with any specific organizations or journalists.

“I feel Mr. Scheer articulated it well today. I’m going to let the leader’s statement stand,” writes Hann in a September 26 email to TPM.

And again today, the Conservatives are sticking with Scheer’s comments made to reporters in Whitby, following a question about Menzies’ ejection and the party’s blacklisting of Rebel Media.

“As I said a few years ago after some incidents with reporting from that network, I would no longer be granting interviews to the Rebel and as for today, this event was open to accredited media outlets,” Scheer responded to a Toronto Star journalist who asked about how the leader “views the organization now.”

Trudeau and the Liberals have also made no secret about blackballing The Rebel and have denied accreditation to several events both at home and abroad.

Most recently, self-styled “Rebel Commander” Ezra Levant and his reporter Keane Bexte were barred by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland from attending a presser at the National Arts Centre to cover U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit in August.

The pair of reporters managed to access the event being accredited by Pompeo, a tactic The Rebel has used on previous occasions to do an end-run around the government.

After Menzies’ run-in with Scheer, the Conservatives and their RCMP detail, the veteran reporter and former Sun Media host believes the party is making a strategic miscalculation.

“We have almost 1.2 million YouTube subscribers and I’m going to take a wild guess that most of these are red meat conservatives – precisely the kind of audience Andrew Scheer wants to reach,” said Menzies.

“Ezra Levant has a great line; Mr. Scheer is all about catering to the mean girls in the media party – Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, the CBC – maybe with the hope, the optimism, these enemies will come to like and love him. But that will never happen.”

“Meanwhile, I would suggest that we’re pretty friendly media to the conservative cause and we’re being deemed media-non–grata. What is the reason for that? I do not have an answer.”

Menzies said RCMP turned him over to Durham Regional Police, who later released him without charges.

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