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Colorado Sun politics reporter removed from GOP state assembly

Colorado Sun reporter Sandra Fish at the GOP state assembly in Pueblo before being escorted out by sheriff's deputies.
Screenshots from a video posted on X/Twitter by @annalynnfrey
Colorado Sun reporter Sandra Fish at the GOP state assembly in Pueblo before being escorted out by sheriff's deputies.

A Colorado Sun politics reporter was kicked out of the Colorado GOP Assembly which took place in Pueblo over the weekend.

Sandra Fish has been covering politics since 1982. She was escorted out of the state GOP assembly on Saturday by a sheriff’s deputy, after being told that party Chair Dave Williams thinks her current reporting is “very unfair.”

You can watch the video of her being ousted here.

Sandra Fish spoke to Jackie Sedley about her experience.

Jackie Sedley: So let’s just start at the beginning. You were all set to go to the Colorado GOP Assembly at the State Fairgrounds in Pueblo, and then you received a text around 3:45 a. m. Saturday morning. Is that right?

Sandra Fish: Yes, I did. And it’s worth noting that I did attend the 3rd Congressional District and the 4th Congressional District nominating assemblies on Friday, which were really the big news coming out of this, but I had asked about credentials and I got this text at 3:45 a.m. saying that, you know, I wasn’t going to be let in. But I thought, “Hey, I’m going to try to go anyway.”

I’ve been going to these for a long time. And, you know, this is a group of about three or four thousand Republicans making decisions on behalf of all 900,000 registered Republicans in the state. And so I went in the door, they gave me a press credential, and I was like hanging out talking to people that I know and people that I don’t, and new friends and then, after I’d been there a little more than an hour, and they realized I was there and got rid of me.

Sedley: And what was the interaction like between you and those that told you you had to leave?

Fish: You know, the security staff at the event center was kind of apologetic and just like, “You’ve got to go.” Finally Eric Grossman, who was the event coordinator came over and talked to me, but refused to answer any of my questions about, what is it that’s unfair? He seemed kind of angry and the deputy, they were totally professional. I mean, it was fine.

You know, I get that I have written stories about the Colorado GOP’s finances in the past year. They’re not good – first time in at least 20 years that they haven’t employed full-time staff. I’ve written about the chairman using party resources to promote his candidacy for the 5th congressional district. And I expect that’s what he is angry about, but I would like specifics because has he called and corrected anything about those stories? Nope.

Sedley: So when they said that Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dave Williams finds your current reporting “very unfair,” it sounds like you maybe had an idea right off the bat what they might have been referring to. Have you heard feedback like this before from other Republicans or other folks that maybe aren’t appreciative of your reporting?

Fish: You know, there are people who don’t want to be covered in what they perceive as a negative light. I mean, at the end of February, I went up to Representative Elizabeth Epps in the Capitol to ask her why she had been participating only remotely in House floor sessions. I mean, she was clearly in the Capitol that day, right after the House floor session that she’d participated in remotely. And she refused to talk to me. She just sort of looked at me and I asked her a question several times. And there’s a recording of that.

I mean, I get that people don’t want that kind of reporting, but I got to say, journalism is here to give people the information they need to be free and self-governing, and we are reporting on behalf of the public and our democracy, and that’s why I felt I needed to be there, to hear what was being said there, and to let others know.

Sedley: So, did this feel personal, or to you, does it represent a larger dynamic between politicians and the free press?

Fish: I think it does represent a larger dynamic in that this is happening around the country, that some people are trying to exclude certain members of the press. I mean, it is kind of personal because it was just me. I mean, Heidi Beedle from the Times Recorder, bought a guest pass and they probably should have seen that she was live-tweeting from there, but, you know, they didn’t kick her out. But it is a larger dynamic that’s been coming on for a while.

Like, I’ve seen in the last eight years or so, certain politicians refusing to participate in public debates sponsored by, say, the League of Women Voters. And it’s concerning because if you’re going to be responsible to the public, you need to respond to the public.

Sedley: And in the last 20 seconds or so, has William said anything else about your ousting since it gained traction in the media?

Fish: He has called me a fake journalist. I’m not.

Sedley: Sandra Fish, data journalist and politics reporter for the Colorado Sun. Sandra, thank you so much for sharing your story with us this morning. We appreciate it.

Fish: Thanks, Jackie.

Copyright 2024 KGNU. To see more, visit KGNU.

This story was shared via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico including Aspen Public Radio.

Jackie Sedley is KGNU's Report for America Corps Member where she covers all things environment and climate. Before moving to Mountain Time, she lived in sunny California working as the Internal News Director for KCSB-FM in Santa Barbara. Sedley's journalism career thus far has also included freelancing for the New York Times, producing and reporting for KCRW, and working as Editor-in-Chief for her community college newspaper. Sedley was introduced to journalism during her sophomore year of high school, when she joined her high school newspaper as a novice staff writer. After working her way up to News Editor and eventually Editor-in-Chief, she realized her thirst for reporting was truly unquenchable. Over the past 10 years Sedley has covered raging fires, housing crises, local elections, protests and more. Journalism is both the reason Jackie Sedley wakes up in the morning, and the reason she does not sleep enough at night.