Last week, Florida Sen. Daphne Campbell called the police on a Miami Herald reporter for doing her job. But soon after, it was revealed that it wasn’t the first time Campbell found a reporter’s actions to be “threatening.”
Campbell, a Democrat running for reelection, represents the state’s 38th District. SPJ Florida left a message with Campbell’s office for a comment.
“It was alarming to hear about an elected official calling the police on a reporter who was just doing her job, in a public forum no less,” said SPJ Florida President Christiana Lilly. “When it came out later that same day that Sen. Campbell had done this before, it was truly disappointing to see the First Amendment come under attack.”
On Aug. 9, Miami Herald municipal reporter Sarah Blaskey was covering a luncheon hosted by Social Citizens of Southeast Florida, where members could ask questions of Campbell and her opponent, Jason Pizzo.
After the Q&A, Blaskey told SPJ Florida she approached Campbell for a comment on a story, but “she seemed reluctant” so she suggested she’d wait to ask questions when the senator was done talking with constituents. Later, when the senator was alone, she asked what her greatest accomplishment was so far, and Campbell said to call her lawyer for questions. She then agreed to answer questions submitted in writing.
Finally, when the senator was speaking with constituents who had follow-up questions about her stance on abortion, Blaskey went over to hear the response.
However, Campbell “asked me to allow her to speak with her constituents in private…I asked the women (who already knew I was a journalist from the Miami Herald) if they would mind if I listened in. They said, of course I could join them. At that point, Sen. Campbell became visibly upset, stopped speaking to me or the women.”
Later, a North Miami Beach Police officer arrived at the venue and said the department received a call about a “lady in a flowered dress and ‘threatening behavior,’” said Blaskey, who was wearing a flowered dress that afternoon. The police said the senator felt threatened, but did not find the threat credible and would not follow up on the complaint.
“I am part of a team of professionals, and we will continue to do our jobs of informing the public about things that are important. We will not be intimidated or bullied out of reporting a story, especially when it concerns an elected official,” Blaskey said.
Later that day, it was revealed it wasn’t the first time Campbell called the police on a reporter. Rich Robinson, the publisher for Rise News, wrote that in May, during a Miami Shores Village Council meeting, she called the police on him. Robinson said he was filming the meeting as well as getting some B-roll of Campbell interacting with council members, walking out of the building, and then driving away.
“All the while, I stayed on a public sidewalk,” he wrote.
According to the police report — which Robinson only obtained last week — Campbell called the police because her assistant, who was driving the two of them in her own vehicle, “was very worried by [his filming] because she transports her children in her car and because she was afraid someone with ill intentions would mistake her vehicle for Campbell’s.”
The report also noted that Robinson “was the same person who confronted her after Hurricane Irma in 2017 and accused her of using her political connections to try to get FP&L to turn her family’s electricity back on ahead of other people’s.”
“As Blaskey tweeted, they were committing an act of journalism when the police were called. I hope this only encourages journalists to continue to do their jobs,” Lilly said.
— Sarah Blaskey (@Blaskey_S) August 10, 2018