Far-right Republicans in Pennsylvania ban media from campaign stops

WARMINSTER TOWNSHIP, Pa. — For nearly two hours Saturday, members of the media were denied entry by a security team to a routine campaign event featuring Republican gubernatorial and U.S. Senate candidates a they.

“I know my rights,” said a man in a tricorn hat and white knee-high socks, when pressed for an answer about why he was keeping the media out.

“We’re just following orders,” said another security man.

The decision to ban reporters from a joint rally by Doug Mastriano, the gubernatorial candidate, and Kathy Barnette, the Senate candidate, turned a normal campaign stop at an office park event space into a confrontation. protracted between reporters and the two distant campaigns. correct candidates.

The tug-of-war was emblematic of the relationship between the GOP and the mainstream media over the past decade, mainly because it was so ridiculous.

The man in colonial costume was enforcing the ban in a parking lot with several other men dressed in modern clothing who were not interacting with the reporters and were preventing journalists from approaching the building where Barnette, Mastriano and former Trump legal counsel Jenna . Ellis was organizing a pre-election rally. At one point, the police were called. Even the guests had to prove that they had pre-registered online or they couldn’t get in.

Ultimately, the security team produced a letter from the owner of The Fuge, “Bucks County’s most exclusive event space,” explaining the situation.

“This letter states that the Friends of Doug Mastriano security team has the sole authority to accept or deny entry to anyone who fits onto the grounds of the property. The Fuge is the host venue and will not interfere with the security team in any way,” a member of the security team read aloud.

Later, The Fuge’s owner, Samuel Cravero, came out and spoke to reporters. “I rented a space for a private event, and it’s their decision not to have you here,” he said.

It was a predictable close end to a primary that produced Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz, the country’s most recognizable heart surgeon, who ultimately won Trump’s endorsement. It also propelled Mastriano, a state senator and a central figure in the effort to nullify the 2020 election, into a serious gubernatorial race. Earlier on Saturday, Trump released a last-minute note of endorsement of Mastriano. “There is no one in Pennsylvania who has done more, or fought harder, for electoral integrity than State Senator Doug Mastriano,” Trump wrote.

The Mastriano campaign has previously banned the media from its events, but the strategy didn’t make much sense this weekend given the positive news of Trump’s endorsement.

Meanwhile, Oz is roughly tied with Barnette, a conservative commentator who began hot on the heels of Oz and hedge fund exec Dave McCormick late in the race. Barnette is a wild card: The author of a memoir about being black and conservative never held public office and lost a House race in 2020. She has also espoused anti-Muslim and anti-gay views.

Trump allies are panicking over Barnette’s rise, and the possibility of another blemish on his endorsement record if Oz loses, calling the situation a “nightmare,” CNN reported. Trump released a statement Thursday saying Barnette has not been properly “vetted” but left the door open to support her in the general election.

“They’re coming out with long knives right now,” Barnette told an audience in suburban Philadelphia. “I had the best day of my life today.”

Some people who spoke to HuffPost before participating in the Barnette-Mastriano event said that Oz turned them down as a candidate and resonated more with Barnette’s story. In a campaign video and during debates, Barnette has spoken about how her mother was raped and gave birth to her at age 12, a story that used to resonate with anti-abortion Republican voters.

“With Oz, it’s just a matter of doublespeak, on things like the Second Amendment and red flag laws,” said Nick, a 30-year-old IT worker from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. “I appreciate the Barnette story.”

Neither Barnette nor Mastriano ever addressed the reporters outside, but Barnette’s face shone on the electronic billboard of a van in the parking lot, along with the slogan: “I AM YOU!”

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