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A conversation with the Colorado Sun reporter who was removed from the GOP state assembly

Colorado Sun reporter Sandra Fish at the GOP state assembly in Pueblo before being escorted out by sheriff's deputies.
Screenshots from a video posted on X/Twitter by @annalynnfrey
Colorado Sun reporter Sandra Fish at the GOP state assembly in Pueblo before being escorted out by sheriff's deputies.

Sandra Fish has been covering politics since 1982. Last weekend, she was kicked out of the Colorado GOP Assembly in Pueblo after being told that party Chair Dave Williams thinks her reporting is “very unfair.”

View the video of her being ousted.

Fish spoke to Jackie Sedley of KGNU about her experience.

Jackie Sedley: So let’s just start at the beginning. You were all set to go to the Colorado GOP Assembly at the State Fairgrounds in Pueblo, and then you received a text around 3:45 AM Saturday morning. Is that right?

Sandra Fish: Yes, I did. And it’s worth noting that I did attend the 3rd Congressional District and the 4th Congressional District nominating assemblies on Friday, which were really the big news coming out of this. But I had asked about credentials, and I got this text at 3:45 a.m. saying that I wasn’t going to be let in. But I thought, “Hey, I’m going to try to go anyway.”

I’ve been going to these for a long time. And, you know, this is a group of about three or four thousand Republicans making decisions on behalf of all 900,000 registered Republicans in the state. And so I went in the door, they gave me a press credential, and I was like hanging out talking to people that I know and people that I don’t. ... Then, after I’d been there a little more than an hour, and they realized I was there and got rid of me.

Sedley: And what was the interaction like between you and those that told you you had to leave?

Fish: The security staff at the event center was kind of apologetic and just like, “You’ve got to go.” Finally, Eric Grossman, the event coordinator, came over and talked to me, but refused to answer any of my questions about, what is it (about my reporting) that’s unfair? He seemed kind of angry and the deputy, they were totally professional. I mean, it was fine.

I get that I have written stories about the Colorado GOP’s finances in the past year. They’re not good – first time in at least 20 years that they haven’t employed full-time staff. I’ve written about the chairman using party resources to promote his candidacy for the 5th Congressional District. And I expect that’s what he is angry about, but I would like specifics because has he called and corrected anything about those stories? Nope.

Sedley: So when they said that Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dave Williams finds your current reporting “very unfair,” it sounds like you maybe had an idea right off the bat what they might have been referring to. Have you heard feedback like this before from other Republicans or other folks who maybe aren’t appreciative of your reporting?

Fish: There are people who don’t want to be covered in what they perceive as a negative light. I mean, at the end of February, I went up to Representative Elizabeth Epps in the Capitol to ask her why she had been participating only remotely in House floor sessions. She was clearly in the Capitol that day, right after the House floor session that she’d participated in remotely. And she refused to talk to me. She just sort of looked at me, and I asked her a question several times. And there’s a recording of that.

I mean, I get that people don’t want that kind of reporting, but I got to say, journalism is here to give people the information they need to be free and self-governing, and we are reporting on behalf of the public and our democracy, and that’s why I felt I needed to be there, to hear what was being said there, and to let others know.

Sedley: So, did this feel personal, or to you, does it represent a larger dynamic between politicians and the free press?

Fish: I think it does represent a larger dynamic in that this is happening around the country, that some people are trying to exclude certain members of the press. I mean, it is kind of personal because it was just me. I mean, Heidi Beedle from the (Colorado) Times Recorder bought a guest pass, and they probably should have seen that she was live-tweeting from there, but, you know, they didn’t kick her out. But it is a larger dynamic that’s been coming on for a while.

I’ve seen, in the last eight years or so, certain politicians refusing to participate in public debates sponsored by, say, the League of Women Voters. And it’s concerning because if you’re going to be responsible to the public, you need to respond to the public.

Sedley: Has William said anything else about your ousting since it gained traction in the media?

Fish: He has called me a fake journalist. I’m not.

This story was shared via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico, including Aspen Public Radio.

Copyright 2024 KGNU. To see more, visit KGNU.

Jackie Sedley
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