On Tuesday, WAMU reporter Eric Schultz attempted to interview Tommie Canady, a veteran from Maryland, about the poor treatment he said he was receiving from the VA. In the middle of the interview at a VA hospital in Washington, DC, a VA communications specialist named Gloria Hairston, “along with two other employees and four armed security guards, stopped Schultz and wouldn’t let him leave until he handed over his [recording] equipment.” A group of veterans stood nearby during the exchange:
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 the woman [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 says,
Like any good reporter, 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.”
“What I mostly feel bad about is Mr. Canady,” Schultz told WTOP reporter Mark Segraves. “He was trying to tell his story, he has an amazing story and he was denied a chance to tell his story to the media because of these tactics.” ThinkProgress contacted the VA but has yet to get a response.
Facing pressure from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the VA today agreed to return Schultz’s equipment. “After reviewing all the facts surrounding the incident of April 7th and actions since, VA has arranged the return of the flash drive to WAMU,” said VA spokesperson Katie Roberts. “We make every effort to protect the privacy of our patients and to ensure that they are able to make informed decisions about what information they release or discuss with the public while in a VA facility.”