WTOP-FM DC reports a WAMU-FM DC reporter, David Schultz, was robbed last Tuesday night inside a hospital while federal security guards watched. The victim was surrounded by seven men and women, and most of them had guns. They refused to let the 26-year old leave a public event at the V.A. Hospital he was attending and forced him to hand over the flash card from his recorder, after interviewing one of the vets about the poor treatment he was receiving at the hands of the V.A.– Tommie Canady.
Gloria Hairston, an internal communications specialist with Department of Veterans Affairs, aided by at least two other employees of the V.A. and four armed security guards, demanded that Schultz stop recording the interview and hand over his recording equipment. At first he refused, said the story, But after being surrounded by armed police officers who stood between him and the exit, he looked for a compromise. While this was going on, many of the veterans from the meeting had come out to watch the confrontation.
One of those veterans, an amputee in a wheelchair, approached Schultz and asked him for his phone number.
“I started to give it to him and then [Hairston] became irate, she said you can’t give him your phone number. You have to give me all of your equipment or I’m going to get ugly. She used the phrase ‘get ugly,'” Schultz told WTOP. Schultz stood his ground and called his boss for direction. Longtime newsman Jim Asendio is the news director for WAMU.
“I told him to give them the flash card and get out of there,” Asendio says. “I didn’t want this to get out of hand.”
Schultz reluctantly handed over the memory card from his recorder.
On Thursday afternoon, Asendio hand-delivered a letter from WAMU’s general manager to the V.A Hospital demanding the return of the memory card. When he tried to deliver a copy of the letter to V.A. headquarters, he was turned away.
“They told me I need to call first to make an appointment to drop off a letter,” Asendio says.
Katie Roberts, a spokeswoman for the Department of Veterans Affairs, reportedly said Schultz refused to listen to the VA officials’ request for a signed waiver. By conducting an interview without a consent form, she said, the reporter violated the medical patient’s privacy. Roberts told rcfp.org he reporter “took advantage of the patient” in approaching him for an interview, causing “total disorientation.” In addition, she said, Schultz did not identify himself as a reporter.
The latest word prior to the weekend was that the VA was going to return the stolen flash card to the reporter without requiring him to sign any form.
RBR/TVBR observation: We too have had run-ins with guards at federal buildings who think they have authority which they don’t. The best approach is to call the real police. Obviously, the Constitution and Bill of Rights need to be dusted off once in a while for our friends in DC…