Moon bars news media from Idaho GOP convention

From the Idaho Capital Sun

GOP Chairwoman Dorothy Moon said first priorities are preserving access for Republicans, protecting privacy

BY: CLARK CORBIN

News reporters were not allowed to observe any committee meetings or events during the first day of the Idaho Republican State Convention on Thursday at Coeur d’Alene Resort.

The state convention takes place every two years. Republican delegates from counties across Idaho will spend three days voting on proposed rules, resolutions, platform changes and, finally, electing the party’s chairperson.

News reporters may not be allowed to observe or attend any of it — a departure from allowing reporters to observe the general sessions in the past. 

Reporters who checked in at the convention’s registration desk Thursday morning – including two reporters from the Idaho Capital Sun – were directed by volunteers and staff to a designated media area located in a windowless corner of a hallway at Coeur d’Alene Resort. 

Idaho Republican Party officials announced last week and reiterated to news reporters Thursday that reporters would not be allowed to attend any convention meetings, but would be allowed to interview delegates and Republican officials before and after meetings.

The Idaho Republican Party also blocked reporters who are not registered Republicans from attending the Idaho Republican Presidential Caucus on March 2.

Idaho GOP chairwoman defends decision, saying Republican party is a private association

During an interview Thursday outside Coeur d’Alene Resort, a reporter with the Sun asked Idaho Republican Party Chairwoman Dorothy Moon, “When we talk about transparency, is that part of the equation at all?”

“Yeah, not really,” Moon said, laughing. “Not in my mind. In my mind, this is a private group. It’s a private association. And, no, I don’t want to sit here and give you all of our platform changes or any rules or resolutions, such as our strategy on fighting ranked-choice voting, because then the Democrats have that information and then they are going to try to counter us.”

The Sun pointed out that the Idaho Republican Party has already publicly posted its proposed resolutions, platform changes and rules on the Idaho Republican Party’s website.

“Not all of it will (be published online),” Moon responded. “I mean but not the nuances that occur in these meetings.”

At least one elected Republican legislator who attended the convention was surprised by and opposed the decision to exclude news reporters.

“Who in their right mind thinks it is a good idea to lock the press out?” Rep. Stephanie Mickelsen, R-Idaho Falls, said in an interview in the convention hallway.  

“I think (keeping the press out) is reflective of a lot of things going on in the state,” Mickelsen added. “Anytime you don’t want the press to shine light on what you are doing, I think there is a problem. I think the people get a better process when we have press involved.”

“You can say they are right or left or whatever,” Mickelsen said. “But at the end of the day, an informed electorate — which is what we need the press for — helps us and constituents and the people in this state get good information to make good decisions. I think one of the things that people have lost is their constitution of truth. By journalists not being allowed to be a part of and view and report that back, it’s kind of scary honestly.”

Ultimately, Moon said access will be her decision. Moon told the Sun on Thursday she has not decided whether reporters will be allowed to attend or observe the convention’s general session on Friday or Saturday, when delegates vote on rules, resolutions, the party platform and elect the chairperson and leadership team for the Idaho Republican Party. 

Moon told the Sun one of the reasons she didn’t allow reporters into the convention Thursday is because at the last convention two years ago in Twin Falls she didn’t like the way some reporters covered the event.

“In Twin Falls when I ran for this position, I remember the press was back there, and there were some screen shots – and I don’t know if you remember it, you should, it wasn’t involving you but somebody else – and they were texting information to somebody in the Democrat Party and it wasn’t good,” Moon said Thursday. 

Moon declined to identify the reporter. It also wasn’t clear why Moon would have screenshots of a reporter’s phone or text messages. However, it is common practice in journalism for a reporter working on any story to reach out to the other side of a story for comment, including reaching out to a different political party.

“That concerns me, the breach of confidence with the press that they would actually put information out to defame or demean or put a bad light on the event that we just had in Twin Falls,” Moon said.

“There’s no room,” Moon said of Thursday’s meetings. “I’m not gonna let you in. We can’t even get our own people in.”

“We’ve got to see how many people are there. I mean, we’re at capacity right now,” Moon said of Friday’s and Saturday’s meetings. “And, no, the press will not come in when I’ve got people who have driven all the way from southeast Idaho to attend. And I know you drove far, but these are people who have a right to be in there and vote and listen.”

“I don’t want a distraction. I don’t want people to be playing for the cameras or playing for the media,” Moon added. “I want them to get their work done.”

If Moon bans reporters from the convention’s general session, it would represent a departure from the norm of recent Republican conventions. In 2022, former Idaho Capital Sun reporter Kelcie Moseley-Morris was allowed to attend and cover the general session of the convention, although she was not allowed to attend committee meetings. 

“The platform discussions were closed, but the general session was open,” Moseley-Morris said in a text message to the Sun.

In the 2014 Idaho Republican State Convention in Twin Falls, reporter Clark Corbin and other journalists were also allowed to attend the general session and some committee meetings.

This year’s Idaho Republican State Convention continues Friday with more committee meetings at Coeur d’Alene Resort and a general session at North Idaho College. 

The Idaho Democratic Party State Convention runs June 22 and June 23 in Moscow.

From the Idaho Capital Sun

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