Update: WAMU Reporter Runs Into Scuffle With Govt. Covering Dept. of VA

We told you last week about WAMU reporter David Schultz’s run-in with a government official while covering a Veterans Affairs Hospital event. A department’s “internal communications specialist” demanded that Schultz stop recording an interview with a veteran and turn over his equipment. He did end up giving the rep his memory card.

Officials contend Schultz did not properly identify himself as a member of the media at the event. WaPo reports the meeting was organized to hear comments about the medical care received by minority veterans and Schultz said he attended the meeting in the hospital’s auditorium after learning about it from a VA press release.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has ordered a “top to bottom” review of the incident. In a statement this weekend, a VA spokesperson said, “We need to grow from this incident in order to determine how we can better provide media access while supporting the privacy of our Veterans.”

The audio flash drive was returned to Schultz Friday and today WAMU aired audio of that exchange. You can listen on WAMU’s site here or via WaPo here. A transcript of the aired clip is after the jump…

Schultz starts his report by stating that he invited Canady out into the hallway to further discuss his situation.

Canady speaking to Schultz: “I’d really like to tell you the whole story. It really makes the whole thing.”

Schultz: “I don’t mind at all.”

Canady told Schultz that he was forced out of the Army “by a racist captain” and was homeless for three years.

At this point, public affairs officer Gloria Hairston approaches Schultz and Canady:

Hairston: “I can’t allow you to use this. I can’t.”

Schultz: “I’m going to use this. I mean he’s he’s…”

Hairston speaking to Canady: “OK you can’t talk anymore. I can’t do it sir. You can’t do it.”

Schultz speaking to Canady: “You have a right to talk if you want to talk.”

Canady speaking to Hairston: “Who are you? I’m just saying. I’m just, just tell me who you are.”

Hairston: “I’m Gloria Hairston public affairs here at the medical center.”

Canady: “Are you telling me I have to keep my mouth shut?”

Hairston: “No I didn’t say that you have to keep your mouth shut. You don’t have to keep your mouth shut.”

Canady: “Well then why are you telling me I can’t do this interview? You hear this guys? I can’t do anything.”

At this point, the audio recorder picks up the sound of Hairston walking away.

Canady: “No, I heard her you say she’s gonna…[inaudible]… seize this tape. Well if she want it, I’m going to put it in my hand she’d better not try to seize it. And I mean it. Or else you’re going to have to physically touch me and I don’t think…”

Schultz: “Well let’s calm down here…”

Schultz then reports that Canady continued to share his opinions on patient care at the District’s VA medical center:

“They don’t get the proper care they’re supposed to by the nurses. I’ve spent months in here, some of these guys spend years in here. We know exactly what goes on in this hospital, and they hide it. It’s time for it to come out to the public. This is sad.”

Canady then alleges that hospital staffers are racist:

“These Black guys they can’t get their benefits like the White guys. Count the numbers and you’ll see what I mean. People come in here. Everyone one of them, they go through the same thing we do. Got a higher percentage than we do. And some of us don’t even have a percentage and we file before they did. Doctors have given me 100 percent from California to Washington, D.C. and I still have not received my money. At last count it was almost $800,000 and these people have not paid me a penny.”

At that point, Schultz reports, Hairston returns with security guards and asks for his equipment, promising to erase the audio on the flash card. Schultz eventually handed it over, but none of the audio was erased.