Local press skewers McConnell for barring political reporter

Greg Nash

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is taking heat from his hometown newspaper after his campaign barred a local political reporter from a press conference this week and threatened police action against him.

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In an editorial published Wednesday, the Louisville Courier-Journal skewered McConnell for failing to adequately explain why Kentucky reporter Joe Sonka, who writes for the alternative-weekly Louisville Eccentric Observer, was refused entry to a Monday press conference by Jesse Benton, McConnell’s campaign manager.

According to Sonka’s Twitter feed and a blog he wrote outlining his interactions with the campaign, as well as a Courier-Journal report, Sonka was further denied entry by a Louisville police officer.

“It must be terrifying to be a public official and be confronted by reporters who want to ask tough questions that you would rather avoid,” the editorial reads.

“But Kentucky's senior Sen. Mitch McConnell, who as Senate minority leader is one of the most powerful Republicans in Washington, has found a novel solution. Police protection.”

Asked at the press conference why Sonka was kept out, McConnell reportedly said he didn’t know, “giving some credibility to critics who accuse him of being out of touch,” the editorial board writes.

Benton initially said Sonka was barred from the event because other unnamed reporters objected to him asking questions. He later said it was because the event was meant to be an “intimate question and answer session,” to which Sonka was not invited.

Sonka himself told the Courier-Journal that he believed McConnell’s team was “afraid I was going to ask him a question that he was going to have difficulty with.” The campaign had previously asked Sonka to leave another event, in February, but he was allowed back in by the owner of the business hosting the event.

“Mr. McConnell could clear this up. But he's an expert at avoiding questions,” the editorial reads.
 
It closes: “Now he has the police helping him.”

McConnell is a top target for Democrats this cycle due to his persistent unpopularity in the state, and he's facing both a primary challenger in businessman Matt Bevin and is expected to face Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in the general election. 

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