MOBILE, AL (WKRG) — WKRG News 5 and other members of the Mobile-area press were kicked out of Governor Kay Ivey’s roundtable discussion in Mobile on Wednesday for asking too many questions.
Ivey’s press secretary Daniel Sparkman abruptly booted News 5’s Emily DeVoe, News 5 photojournalist Arnell Hamilton, photographers from other local television stations, and Lagniappe writer Jason Johnson from the Mobile visit. The removal from the room came after DeVoe asked Ivey for an update on the presumably non-controversial plans to build the Interstate-10 bridge across Mobile Bay.
“Governor Ivey, during lunch, [you and local representatives] discussed the I-10 bridge project. What’s the status of the project?,” asked DeVoe.
Before she could finish asking her question, Sparkman immediately confronted DeVoe and kicked all press out of the room.
DeVoe spent all of Wednesday morning with Governor Ivey and her team during the Mobile visit, attempting to ask questions related to the grant for USA Medical Center and other topics concerning south Alabama. She repeatedly asked for an update on the proposed construction for the Interstate-10 bridge, but was told to wait until after lunch.
The Interstate-10 bridge is often considered the most desperately-needed transportation project in the entire state of Alabama. Traffic on the I-10 Bayway is often congested due to a heavy volume of vehicles or accidents that cause standstills. The delays have caused disruption and headaches for decades.
News 5 contacted Ivey’s Communication Director Josh Pendergrass for an explanation on Wednesday afternoon. He said the press was supposed to be removed at a certain point during the roundtable discussion. It just coincidentally happened as DeVoe asked about the I-10 bridge, Pendergrass explained to News 5 on the phone.
“While Governor Ivey was in Mobile to learn from elected officials and local leaders about the community’s needs, she made herself available to all media outlets in a scheduled press conference. All reporters who attended the press conference were given ample opportunity to ask questions at that time. Media members were invited to attend other portions of the Governor’s visit as observers, but questions from the media were not taken to allow invited elected officials and local leaders to speak to the Governor and for her to hear directly from them.” — Communications Director Josh Pendergrass
In response to Pendergrass’ statement, News 5 did attend the press conference, as stated above. However, Ivey and her team deflected DeVoe’s question about the bridge, choosing to answer it “after lunch,” at which time all press members were ejected from Ivey’s presence.
This isn’t the first time a recent Governor of Alabama has refused to answer questions from the Mobile-area press. During one of his final visits to Mobile, former Governor Robert Bentley infamously scolded News 5’s Bill Riales and Debbie Williams for asking questions about Bentley’s alleged affair impeding his ability to recruit businesses to the state of Alabama.
In our never-ending commitment to journalism and integrity, News 5 will continue to ask the questions our viewers want answers to, no matter the reaction from public officials who choose to disregard them.
If we receive any new information on the Interstate-10 bridge, we’ll bring it to you on-air and on WKRG.com.