NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—New Brunswick Today’s camera equipment was briefly stolen by a bodyguard who proceeded to violently force this reporter out of a hotel lobby.
Newly-released video shows the bodyguard, Joel Morris, getting physical with the author of this article on August 3 shortly after 8:30pm at the Heldrich Hotel.
The video was handed over to the New Brunswick Police Department (NBPD) two days later, only after this reporter questioned the department about why it had not yet been retrieved.
The violence went down just moments after Morris’ boss, White House Correspondent April Ryan, took to the stage for her keynote speech at an educational event sponsored by supporters of charter schools.
The radio journalist, who works for American Urban Radio Networks and also contributes to television’s Cable News Network (CNN), briefly communicated with Morris from the podium before going silent for nearly 30 seconds.
During that time, Morris unplugged New Brunswick Today’s video camera, which had been recording the entire event without incident. He grabbed the expensive equipment and walked off just as Ryan resumed speaking.
“When I speak, I don’t have news covering my speech,” Ryan told the audience.
Morris, a 30-year-old man with an Illinois driver’s license, had repeatedly refused to give his name to this reporter, even as he threatened to “take… down” our camera.
Event organizers hired not one, but two public relations firms to promote the event, with Mercury Public Relations sending out multiple media advisories advertising Ryan as the headliner for the second night of the three-day “Parent Summit.”
But no rep from Mercury was at the event, at least not for the Saturday evening celebration. Instead, it was an employee of Pace Education Strategies who welcomed this reporter and advised where our camera could be set up.
Ryan was the keynote speaker for the 4th annual NJ Parents Summit. She has covered the White House for many years.
On August 13, without adding any words of her own, Ryan re-tweeted a comment that included a report from the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a project launched to document abuses of press freedom in the United States.
The report categorizes the incident as a targeted “physical attack” against this reporter.
In January 2018, Ryan participated in a discussion on press freedom that included a review of the trends found during the first year of the tracker project.
“It’s very real for some of us,” said Ryan at the event dubbed “Journalism in the Trump Era: Assessing Press Freedom in the United States.”
“I’ve been getting death threats, just for asking a question, a logical question,” she continued. “I’m making sure I’m secure. The FBI is on speed dial. So is the Secret Service and the local police department.”
Eight months later, Ryan admitted to the Hollywood Reporter that she had hired a bodyguard, blaming the administration of US President Donald Trump: “They’ve put a target on my head…. I’ve had death threats. I’ve had craziness… All I’m going to say for my safety is: I have a team.”
Local police all but ignored the assault, taking more than five days to prepare a four-paragraph report that characterized the incident as “harassment,” listing both Morris and this reporter as suspects, and declining to file any criminal complaints.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.