Journalist Jailed For Questioning HHS Secretary Says He Was Just Doing His Job

"I was arrested for doing something journalists do every day," writes Dan Heyman in a Washington Post op-ed.

The West Virginia journalist who was arrested after shouting questions last week at Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said Tuesday that he’s surprised by the attention his case has received.

Dan Heyman, a Public News Service reporter, published an op-ed in The Washington Post describing his experience after getting arrested for repeatedly questioning Price in the West Virginia State Capitol. Heyman wanted Price to address aspects of proposed health care legislation that would possibly drive up costs for victims of domestic violence. Police accused Heyman of “willful disruption of governmental processes.”

When Heyman was released after spending seven hours in jail, he was surprised to learn that he was at the center of a smoldering national story raising questions about press freedom under President Donald Trump’s administration.

“I don’t think I deserve all that. It’s true that I was arrested for doing something journalists do every day, shouting out a question to a public official walking down a hallway, but there are reporters who suffer a lot more just for being reporters,” Heyman wrote. “Still, I’ve been amazed by the supportive comments I’ve gotten on social media, as well as unsolicited offers of money or help.”

He added that he wasn’t interrupting any government processes, despite the allegation.

“I went to the capitol to do my job and ask a question — not looking for trouble or intending to disrupt some state process,” he wrote.

Two uniformed officers were filmed taking Heyman into custody. Price has expressed support for the officers, saying they “did what they felt was appropriate.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia said in a statement that the arrest was “a blatant attempt to chill an independent, free press.”

HHS officials still have not answered Heyman’s question about provisions in the proposed law that would allow some health insurers to charge higher rates to survivors of domestic violence because of a “preexisting condition.”

“As soon as this furor dies down, I hope to finish the story,” Heyman wrote. “But I wasn’t calling out to Price to score points — I was looking for answers about how the policy he was promoting would affect people in West Virginia and across the nation.”