A progressive reporter and noted critic of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) claims he was turned away from a campaign event Monday and told he would be arrested if he asked a question.
Joe Sonka, the news editor for the alternative paper LEO Weekly, said McConnell’s campaign manager, Jesse Benton, was the one who asked him to leave a press conference held after a round-table discussion with veterans.
“Jesse Benton says I’m only allowed into McConnell event if I don’t ask question,” Sonka tweeted. “I said I’d like to ask a question if others are allowed to. Benton said he would call the police on me to keep me out.”
“LMPD officer cut me off as I entered presser, said he’d arrest me if I walked past him, on orders of @Team_Mitch,” Sonka, who used to write for the blog Barefoot and Progressive, added.
Louisville Metro Police were reportedly called on to make sure the reporter was not allowed into the event.
Sonka, a frequent MSNBC guest, said he had planned to ask the Kentucky senator a question about immigration, adding that he was told originally that he couldn’t attend the event because there wasn’t enough sitting room.
However, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal, there were several empty seats.
“I think they were afraid I was going to ask him a question that he was going to have difficulty with,” Sonka said, according to the same report, adding that Benton “said I could come in if I didn’t ask any questions, then when I told him I’d like to, he said he’d get the police to put me under arrest.”
Benton claims Sonka’s characterization of the situation is inaccurate.
“Our campaign held a private event at a hotel today, and select members of the media were invited to attend for an intimate question and answer session. Mr. Sonka was not invited, and was therefore asked to leave. When he refused, the matter was turned over to the hotel staff who followed their internal protocol,” Benton wrote in an email, according to Politico.
But here’s something else: Certain reporters at the press conference supposedly requested that Sonka be blocked from the event, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported, citing McConnell’s staff.
For his part, McConnell reportedly said he was unsure why the Kentucky journalist was removed from the event.
Sonka’s known dislike for the Kentucky senator may provide the answer. After a viewing of Michael Moore’s “Sicko” in 2007, he once wrote on an anti-McConnell website: “I made a vow after I read that quote last night. I will devote every last second, every last amount of energy I have, every last drop of my blood, my very last breath, to making sure that Mitch McConnell does not serve another term in the U.S. Senate.”
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This post has been updated.