Florida reporter says she was blocked from Gov. DeSantis’s coronavirus press briefing

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A Florida reporter in a bureau operated by two of the state’s largest newspapers says she was denied access to a press conference given by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on coronavirus efforts in the state.

Mary Ellen Klas, who serves as the Miami Herald’s bureau chief for the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee Bureau, was reportedly denied entry into the Florida state Capitol in an effort to attend a press briefing from the governor, lieutenant governor, director of emergency management and state surgeon general, the Miami Herald reported.

The press briefing addressed coronavirus testing in the state, access to medical care and efforts to prevent people from New York from entering the state.

New York City in particular has been hit hardest by the pandemic.

Klas shared a video on Twitter of Meredith Beatrice, a state spokeswoman, telling the reporter that she could watch the press conference on a state-sponsored public affairs media service. Klas can be heard in the video asking if the reason she could not attend the press briefing was because she requested social distancing during the event.

Klas told the Miami Herald that she had asked that the governor’s office hold video press briefings over Zoom or other online applications so that reporters could maintain distance amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

“I asked for social distancing. I didn’t ask to be excluded,” Klas told the Miami Herald. She said efforts to submit questions to the governor’s office in writing prior to the briefing were unsuccessful.

“The problem with having this available on a satellite feed is there’s no interaction, and we’d already had several days where they weren’t answering [our] questions.”

Klas also tweeted alleging that News Service of Florida reporter Jim Turner was told by DeSantis media officials that he would be kept out if he insisted that the Miami Herald reporter be let into the briefing. 

Klas also tweeted questions to the governor Saturday. 

Helen Aguirre Ferré, DeSantis’s chief spokeswoman, said in a statement to The Hill that a small group of reporters was admitted to the briefing in order to maintain social distancing.

“Every endeavor is made to ensure the public continues to have full access to information as the safety and security of Florida residents is our greatest concern,” Ferré said. 

She added that “a reporter from Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald was called but the reporter did not return the two calls.”

Mark Katches, executive editor of the Tampa Bay Times, said in a statement after the briefing that “by restricting our ability to report and ask questions of his administration, the governor ultimately is penalizing the people of Florida who rely on the Times/Herald bureau for accurate and reliable information during an unprecedented public health crisis.”

Miami Herald President & Publisher/Executive Editor Aminda Marqués González said that “depriving our reporters of access is depriving Floridians, our readers and the governor’s constituents.” 

“No reporter wants to be the story, so this is especially exasperating since I – and the entire newsrooms of both the @MiamiHerald and @TB_Times – have been working without stop for weeks to amplify this story and achieve the same goal as @GovRonDeSantis: to help keep people safe,” Klas tweeted Saturday.

The Hill has reached out to DeSantis’s office for comment. 

–This report was updated on March 31 at 7:17 a.m.

Tags Coronavirus Florida Helen Aguirre Ferré Miami Herald Ron DeSantis

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