Political opponents and other candidates are blasting Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu and his top staffer after an ABC15 reporter was barred from a news conference earlier this week .
ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing was stopped at the door of the Pinal County Sheriff’s public headquarters Tuesday by Tim Gaffney, Babeu’s director of administration. Gaffney said anyone but Biscobing was allowed to attend the news conference.
“Americans have watched in horror as Donald Trump has degraded journalists who dared to asked him tough questions. Thomas Jefferson famously said that our liberty cannot be guarded without freedom of the press,” said democrat Tom O’Halleran, who’s running for Congress against Babeu, in a statement. “Paul Babeu must have missed that history lesson, because refusing to allow a TV reporter to attend a press conference in a public building paid for by taxpayers is a slap in the face to our most basic American freedoms."
Republican Wendy Rogers, who also running against Babeu, also condemned PCSO’s denial. On social media, she said, “Wow, so if (Paul Babeu) doesn't like the reporting, the reporter is barred access? Sounds mobster-like.”
Pinal County Sheriff candidate Mark Lamb also released a lengthy statement about what happened, calling PCSO’s actions “absurd.”
“I view this as a blatant disregard for the first amendment,” Lamb said in a video posted on his campaign website. “As sheriff you have taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States.”
ABC15 believes the actions of Babeu’s office were an abuse of power; and attorneys said it’s a potential violation of the law. Journalists have a constitutional right to cover public officials, and ABC15 will continue to fight for access to get answers on important stories.
In late January, Biscobing launched a series of stories about Sheriff Babeu’s tenure running a therapeutic boarding school in Massachusetts. Experts said the school horrifically abused its students and even tortured them.
Sheriff Babeu had previously denied having any “knowledge” of the abuse. But Biscobing obtained a home video showing Babeu praise the abusive practices and describe the methods in detail.