by Matthew L. Schafer
Note: This report was originally published at the media blog Lippmann Would Roll.
On Sunday, private security for Senate Candidate Joe Miller [R-AL] detained the editor of the Alaska Dispatch. Tony Hopfinger was detained after he followed Miller into the hall in an effort to have a question answered after an event at Central Middle School in Anchorage, AL. Hopfinger was reportedly attempting to ask questions about Miller’s behavior as a Fairbanks North Star Borough attorney.
The Alaska Dispatch said Hopfinger was “grabbed and handcuffed,” while Miller’s campaign website called the event a “publicity stunt” by a “liberal blogger.” Miller’s website repeatedly called Hopfinger a blogger, while the Anchorage Daily News and the AP, among others, have described Hopfinger as a journalist.
The private security firm, Drop Zone, told the Alaska Dispatch that the event was not public. The Facebook event page said that the event was open to “friends, colleges, family, acquaintances, neighbors….” According to the Anchorage Daily News, Miller’s security also attempted to prevent other reporters from interviewing Hopfinger while he was detained.
Hopfinger’s website said that he “was on public property where a public event was being held at the time of the incident.” After police arrived, Hopfinger was not arrested, nor was he charged with any crime.
According to the Alaska Dispatch, the various accounts of the event agree on the follow:
- “Two or three bodyguards told Hopfinger to stop asking questions and to leave the building.”
- “Hopfinger continued to ask questions while apparently videotaping the candidate.”
- “Bodyguards told him that if he persisted they would arrest him for trespassing, but refused to identify themselves to Hopfinger.”
- “Hopfinger asked why he was trespassing, as the event was at a public school. Seconds later, he was then put in arm-bar and later handcuffed and sequestered at one end of a hallway for at least 30 minutes. He was told, ‘You’re under arrest.’”
- “Anchorage Police arrived on the scene shortly after.”
Miller’s campaign website reported that the security guards were not aware that Hopfinger was a reporter, and that he was acting “irrational, angry and potentially violent.” Despite this, the private security company owner, William Fulton, told Anchorage TV station KTUU that Hopfinger told him he was a reporter before he detained him.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski [D-AL], who is trailing Miller by almost 7 points, condemned the actions taken by Miller’s security and called on Miller to “disavow the actions.”
“This behavior is particularly disturbing, especially for someone who claims to be a ‘constitutional conservative,’” Murkowski wrote. “Apparently Joe Miller has forgotten both the first and fourth amendments to the United States Constitution.”
The event comes after last week’s announcement by Miller that he would no longer be speaking to the mainstream media. At last week’s press conference, Miller said, “You can ask me about background, you can ask about personal issues—I’m not going to answer. I’m not.”
Hopfinger started the Alaska Dispatch with his wife, Amanda Coyne, in 2008. The website is funded by Alice Rogoff, a former CFO of U.S. News and World Report. The Anchorage Press suggested that Alaska Dispatch is the “newsroom of the future.”