Ventura continues to criticize local, national media outlets

K.C. Howard

Minnesota’s governor has little to say to local print media these days.

After a verbal battle near the World Trade Center rubble, where local reporters challenged Gov. Jesse Ventura’s loyalty to Minnesota’s press, the governor refused further interviews with the state’s two largest papers.

“Anything I need to give them, we will do in a press release,” Ventura said Tuesday.

Star Tribune editor Tim McGuire said the governor’s refusal to speak with reporters has not impaired their coverage, but it hasn’t made their jobs any easier.

If the governor would allow interviews, McGuire said, “It would probably better inform the public. But we will continue to serve the public well, despite his decision.”

Ventura said he would not let his agitation with the media interfere with his job either.

The governor participates in a weekly radio show, where citizens and experts can phone in to discuss public issues.

Disseminating accurate information to the public comes first, Ventura said. “But I’m not going to play (the media’s) game, at their agenda, and give them stories because they don’t cover what I’m there for anyway.”

Ventura has spent much of the last two weeks condemning the media’s focus on politicians’ lives rather than their platforms.

He said the fury expressed by reporters for not being included in the twin towers tour was “one of the worst attacks on me and the first lady.”

But Rep. Tim Pawlenty, R-Eagan, said he too has received public and media criticism. Pawlenty will run for governor in 2002 – the same race Ventura is considering.

“It would be a lie to say that it doesn’t sting,” he said. “But in public service you’re going to get tossed about.”

Walker Lundy, editor of the Pioneer Press, said Ventura is not the first politician to dislike the way he’s covered by the media, and he won’t be the last.

“Our current governor is one of the most interesting characters our political reporters have ever had a chance to cover,” Lundy said. “I think our folks have covered him terrifically.”

The governor also chided the national media pursuing and publicizing sensitive military information.

“I’m very irritated with them in how they question the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld,” Ventura said, “This is war, this doesn’t mean the media gets to go out there and tag along.”

Citing “loose lips sink ships,” Ventura said in times of war people should expect certain freedoms, like the First Amendment, to dissolve. He said the public might lose some rights, temporarily, in order to keep them indefinitely.

“Those are our men and women that are going to be out in harms way, we don’t need to complicate that by having the media broadcast what they are doing,” he said. “(The media’s) First Amendment freedom of speech right – that counts except when we’re at war.”

McGuire disagrees.

“The people who wrote the First Amendment were embroiled in war, and they believed it was important,” McGuire said.

When asked whether the public has right to the information, Ventura said, “Why does the public need to know immediately? They can learn of it three weeks later.”

Lundy agreed with Ventura and said in times of war military secrets should be kept secret.

“In the military you’ll find out there is something called `need to know,'” Ventura said. “If you don’t have a need to know, you can learn of it later.”


K.C. Howard welcomes comments at [email protected]