A reporter for The Lantern was asked to leave an event featuring Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) at Ohio State’s Saxbe Auditorium in the Moritz College of Law on Friday afternoon.
Leah McClure, a third-year in journalism and economics and a student enrolled in The Lantern independent study course, said she was asked to leave by Moritz per the request of Portman’s communication team.
“I asked (chief communications officer for the Moritz College of Law Barbara Peck) if I would be allowed to cover the event for The Lantern, and she said that she was pretty sure that would be fine but that she would have to double check with Rob Portman’s team,” McClure said. “About 15 minutes later, another person who works for Moritz College of Law came in and asked me to leave.”
In a subsequent interview, Peck said the event at OSU was not open to the media and that the Portman campaign did not want media there.
She added that a press advisory would normally be sent out prior to events occurring at the college.
“Usually we discuss it in advance. Normally we work that out in advance, and we would send out an advisory, saying, ‘Hey, this person is coming,’” Peck said.
“Anytime we have a speaker come in, we work out in advance who’s invited, whether media is invited, whether we’re tweeting, whether we’re podcasting. You know, what are the parameters for the speech?”
Kevin Smith, a spokesman for Sen. Portman, said the senator attended the university event to talk about drug addiction and human trafficking. He added that “it was a closed-press event.”
Portman was on campus to participate as a speaker in the first of two Congressional Conversations events, which are part of a series hosted by the Moritz College of Law and the John Glenn College of Public Affairs.
The series is set to focus on improving “legislative process and American governance, public policy, and public service,” according to the OSU Democracy Studies website.
“Students will have an opportunity to engage with and learn from legislative leaders,” a description of the series on the website stated. It also said that registration was required for the event and available online.
McClure said she did not register prior to attending the event. However, she said she was disappointed with the decision, both as a reporter and a student.
“He seemed like he was there to talk to students and to engage with them about the government,” she said. “I got kicked out and I wasn’t allowed to be there. I’m trying to inform students, too, as a reporter.”
Following the event, The Lantern received an email from the John Glenn College of Public Affairs regarding the second Congressional Conversations event featuring Democratic Minority Leader for the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi on April 22.
The email stated that the college was unaware of any press restrictions for the Portman event, but assured that there would be none at the Pelosi event.
Correction, 8:50 p.m., April 8: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Saxbe Auditorium.