Iowa GOP blacklists KCRG from election night coverage

Published: Nov. 8, 2022 at 11:56 AM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Iowa Republican Party has blocked access for KCRG-TV9 to cover its political rally on election night in an apparent effort to blacklist a media outlet due to coverage.

The Republican Party of Iowa is hosting a GOP Victory Party at the Hilton in Downtown Des Moines on election night, similar to events held every election night. Governor Kim Reynolds, Senator Chuck Grassley and other top party candidates and leaders are scheduled to watch election results and speak to supporters there on election night.

KCRG-TV9 received notification Monday afternoon that it was not granted a credential for the event, citing capacity. Iowa GOP spokesperson Kollin Crompton told KCRG-TV9 that “priority was given to Des Moines media”, which would allow KCRG to take a feed of speeches at the event from an affiliate station in Des Moines.

However, KCRG has confirmed local media outlets from outside the Des Moines area did receive credentials, meaning capacity limits and favoring Des Moines media does not fully explain why the party selectively blocked KCRG access to the event.

“This is an unprecedented action in my 20+ years in TV news, 17 of it in Iowa,” said KCRG-TV9 News Director Adam Carros. “I cannot recall a single instance a political party has blocked a local TV or newspaper outlet from its election night event in Iowa.”

“Anytime a political party blocks access for journalists, regardless of the reason, they are really only hurting the public,” said Dan Shelley, Executive Director of the Radio, Television, Digital News Association. “They are really blocking out the public from gaining insight and understanding of important issues and insights surrounding our government and its elected leaders.”

While KCRG-TV9 will be able to access a feed of speeches from the relationships built with other news outlets, the move blocks KCRG reporters from asking questions of Republicans at the event or observing and sharing insights and happenings outside of what takes place on the stage. It also blocks KCRG from sharing its coverage to sister stations in 6 other Iowa TV markets as it had planned, effectively shutting out coverage for audiences of several TV stations.

The action comes after the Iowa Republican Party had repeatedly criticized, questioned or blocked KCRG political coverage, particularly that of the Fact Checks KCRG-TV9 performs of political ads. At least twice, KCRG-TV9 has rated ads by Republican candidates as an ‘F’ – one on an ad where Republican Brenna Bird claimed Attorney General Tom Miller let a convicted sex offender out of prison due to a sex change and one on an ad where Republican Bobby Kaufmann accused former Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek of allowing Black Lives Matter rioters to deface Kinnick Stadium. Kaufmann is the son of the Chair of the Iowa GOP, Jeff Kaufmann

The GOP also ignored requests to take part in the station’s previews of legislative issues and races. After a story KCRG-TV9 published regarding some candidates, specifically two Republicans, taking advantage of a loophole in Iowa’s residency requirements to run in legislative districts, Crompton declared “KCRG has turned into a press shop for Democrats”.

“Quite simply, there is no reason to believe this decision was based on capacity,” said Carros. “Based on previous years of covering these events, including in the same venue, capacity has never been an issue for local TV or print media, as evidenced by other outlets getting access to this year’s GOP event. I have every reason to believe this is political retribution for our fact checks and other reporting the party deemed unfavorable. No one at the central party has reached out to me to discuss their frustrations before taking this step and they have not responded to my earlier offers to discuss their frustration over a particular story or our news coverage in general. I’ve been able to have those discussions frequently over the years with campaigns and candidates from both parties to both build those relationships and improve our coverage.”