A few weeks ago in Janesville, Wisconsin, a couple dozen protesters showed up at a Mitt Romney campaign event bearing Chinese flags. They were there to protest the outsourcing of American jobs. Romney was not there, but in attendance were Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson and Rep. (now vice-presidential candidate) Paul Ryan. Things got a bit heated according to the Janesville Gazette:
Some rally-goers tried to block the protesters who were trying to get close to the stage. The two sides pushed at each other. One man repeatedly poked two small American flags at the sign held by one of the protesters.One of the protesters was John "Sly" Sylvester, the host of the morning drive show on Madison radio station WTDY.
Ben Sparks is the Wisconsin Communications Director for the Romney campaign. Yesterday, in retaliation for Sly's participation in the July 30th Janesville protest, Sparks had WTDY reporter Dylan Brogan escorted from a Madison campaign event that again featured Sen. Ron Johnson. No other reporters were asked to leave, and Sly was not present at yesterday's event. Brogan had covered the Janesville event where his co-worker Sly participated in the protest, but Brogan was not involved in the protest. He just happens to work at the same radio station. At yesterday's event in Madison, Brogan asked why he was being singled out, and Sparks answered that Brogan was "guilty by association." Sparks then requested that Madison police escort Brogan from the public building where the event was being staged.
You can read more about it here and you can listen to the audio here of Ben Sparks losing his cool and freaking out about the Chinese flags that were used at the Janesville event. I would advise you to listen to it. It's entertaining even though it's a bit sad that freedom of the press took a hit.
Dylan Brogan is a very good reporter who has made a name for himself in the past couple years by politely and bravely asking local politicians the tough questions that many in the local media don't dare ask. That is probably the real reason Sparks forced Brogan to leave. He did not want to have anyone ask Sen. Johnson a real question. Johnson is not an intellectual and is not known for a sharp wit, to put it kindly.
Brogan, on the other hand, is a smart young man who works harder than any other reporter in Madison. I saw him at a Madison vigil for the victims of the recent shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek. The local television crews came, got some quick video, and hit the road (one of them awkwardly advised us to "have a nice vigil"), but Brogan stayed late into the evening talking with members of Madison's Sikh community and with the other citizens who had come out to support them. As a result, his report on the event was the best in the city the next day.
It's a shame Brogan was singled out, but the real loser in this episode was Ben Sparks. What a crumb.
Lesson learned: If you want to really piss off a Romney campaign manager, show up at a Romney event with Chinese flags and chant about Romney's talent for off-shoring American jobs.