A cable news reporter pushed to the ground and handcuffed while covering a news conference had a heated confrontation with the leader of the Ohio National Guard just before the reporter was arrested, body-camera footage showed.
NewsNation correspondent Evan Lambert was charged with criminal trespass and resisting arrest Wednesday after authorities said he was told to stop his live broadcast and then refused their orders to leave the news conference with Ohio Gov Mike DeWine.
Mr Lambert said afterward that he was just trying to do his job - while the Pentagon has condemned the National Guard leader’s actions.
Body-camera footage released by the Ohio State Highway Patrol showed Maj Gen John Harris Jr, commander of the state's national guard, talking with a camera operator before a state trooper motioned to stop the live shot. Police said Mr Lambert was talking loudly while on the air from the back of the gym where Mr DeWine was speaking at the same time.
Mr Harris started to walk away before he turned around, confronted and pointed a finger at Mr Lambert and then briefly pushed the reporter with one hand in the chest, the body-camera footage showed. Mr Lambert was also pointing and talking to Harris. A state trooper then stepped in between the two and moved away the commander, the footage showed.
Mr Harris later told police the reporter was coming at him in an aggressive manner and he felt threatened.
“I instinctively put my hands on his chest to keep him from bumping into me, which I felt was inevitable if I had not protected myself,” Harris said in a statement made to investigators and provided by his office. He declined Thursday to comment beyond his statements to police.
A Pentagon spokesperson was asked about Mr Harris’ actions on Friday.
“Yeah, so to be clear the answer is no. That’s not acceptable behavior,” the spokesperson said. “The Secretary of Defense and the Department of Defense absolutely supports strongly supports a free and independent press. So again, I’d refer you to the Ohio National Guard for any comments about that particular incident, but I can assure you that that is not acceptable behavior.”
Authorities said that after the confrontation, Mr Lambert was told to leave the news conference but refused several times. Officers then pulled him toward the exit and told him he was under arrest.
Body-camera footage showed Mr Lambert pull away from two officers who then pushed him to the floor and handcuffed him.
"This is what it’s like to be a Black reporter in 2023,” Mr Lambert said while he was being held down, according to the footage.
The two officers who handcuffed Mr Lambert are white as is the Columbiana County sheriff who ordered Mr Lambert to leave. Both Mr Lambert and Mr Harris, the national guard commander who is a member of the governor's cabinet, are Black.
Mr Lambert and NewsNation officials did not say in their statements afterward that race was a factor in the arrest.
Mr Lambert, who spent about five hours in jail before being released on a bond, said “no journalist expects to be arrested when you’re doing your job, and I think that’s really important that that doesn’t happen in our country,”
Michael Corn, president of news for NewsNation, said Friday that the videos and body camera footage of the arrest speak for themselves.
“Evan acted professionally and at a minimum is owed an apology,” Mr Corn said.
Mr DeWine, who as governor was at the news conference giving an update about the derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals, said he did not authorize the arrest or even see the disagreement, adding that reporters have “every right” to report during briefings.