On May 9, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was visiting the Capitol building of West Virginia. Price, along with Donald Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway were there as part of a “listening tour looking into the country's opioid drug crisis.
Heyman knew that the Republican health care plan had recently passed through the house and was on its way to the Senate. And he also knew that American public had many unanswered questions about the new bill. And as the Secretary of Health and Human Services, it made sense that Price would have some answers.
Despite being asked about health care, something that is his field of expertise, Price did not answer Heyman's question. So Heyman persisted and asked the question again. But Price still would not answer.
Next on the audio recording is not the voice of Heyman, but a different male voice. It's heard telling Heyman, “Do not get close to her. Back up.” The “her” apparently refers to Conway, even though Heyman was addressing Price.
Officials said Heyman was aggressively attempting to breach the security provided by the Secret Service. Heyman was charged with “willful disruption of governmental processes.” The charge is a misdemeanor, and he was released on a $5,000 bond.
According to the official criminal complaint against Heyman, he was “aggressively breaching the Secret Service agents to the point where the agents were forced to remove him a couple of times from the area. It also said Heyman was “causing a disturbance by yelling questions.” This despite the fact that reporters are known for yelling questions fairly frequently.
In addition, Heyman denied that he was getting aggressive or becoming physical. He said that he was not doing anything threatening, “unless poking a phone at someone is considered an act of violence.” But officers at the Capitol apparently saw things differently.
Heyman said he should not be arrested for seeking answers as a member of the press. “This is my job, this is what I’m supposed to do,” he said. “I think it’s my job to ask questions and I think it’s my job to try to get answers.”
At a press conference, Heyman's lawyer said it was the first time he's had a client arrested for “talking too loud.” Other words the lawyer used to describe the case were “highly unusual,” “bizarre” and “way over the top.” And Heyman's boss at Public News Service agreed.
Unlike when he was being questioned by Heyman, Tom Price did have a comment on Heyman's arrest. He said that the police “did what they felt was appropriate.” When asked if it was right for Heyman to be arrested, Price said that it was “not my decision to make.”
The American Civil Liberties Union responded to the incident with a statement posted on their website. It said, “At a time of eroding trust in our government institutions, an independent free press is more critical than ever to ensure that the people running our country are held to account. This makes Heyman’s arrest all the more distressing.”
The ACLU added, “We need journalists to be able to challenge and question public officials, loudly and persistently. For the government to stand in the way is a frontal assault on the First Amendment and the functioning of our democracy.”