Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert is being accused of a very rudimentary style of censorship by photojournalist Jim Lo Scalzo. According to Lo Scalzo, Gohmert got up and physically blocked his view so that he couldn’t photograph protesters during attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearings earlier this week.
Sessions’ confirmation hearings were frequently interrupted by protesters, which the photographers in the room naturally wanted to capture. However, Lo Scalzo claims Rep. Gohmert wasn’t so keen on that.
Speaking to the Dallas Morning News, Scalzo says Gohmert physically got up and blocked his view as he was trying to photograph two protesters being escorted out. Here’s how he describes the interaction:
When I asked him, ‘Are you seriously blocking me from making these pictures of these protesters?’ he said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘The story is not there,’ and then he pointed to Sessions and said, ‘The story is over there.’
For his part, the East Texas Republican is adamant there was no “censorship” as such, although he didn’t deny his actions.
“There were plenty of cameras to capture what was going on, so there was no censorship, but the rule-breaking, distracting, view-blocking cameraman was blocking my view requiring me to stand,” Gohmert told the Dallas Morning News, citing his experience as a former felony judge to imply that he can tell when a photographer is “out of line” in court.
This excuse, however, doesn’t seem to match the CSPAN recording below. The video clearly shows Gohmert blocking Lo Scalzo and then exchanging some heated words at the very end, rather than simply standing up because his view was blocked, as he seems to claim:
For Lo Scalzo, the problem—and the reason he is speaking out—is very cut and dry. “This is a basic First Amendment issue,” he told the Dalls paper. “Lawmakers do not get to determine what I can and cannot cover in a public place, end of story.”
Image credits: Diptych including Louie Gohmert by Gage Skidmore.