McKinney Orders Reporter Not to Air Public Comments

By Jeff Johnson | July 7, 2008 | 8:31pm EDT

( - Rep. Cynthia McKinney still does not know whether she will face criminal charges for allegedly punching a U.S. Capitol Police officer who stopped her at a security checkpoint. But the Georgia Democrat is pulling no punches with the media, ordering an Atlanta television station not to broadcast derogatory comments she made about a member of her staff on Saturday.

McKinney was meeting with constituents and agreed to an exclusive interview with WGCL-TV, CBS 46, of Atlanta. During that interview, CBS 46 reporter Renee Starzyk asked McKinney what she is telling her constituents about the altercation.

"Actually you, media people are the only ones who are asking about that," McKinney claimed.

But a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., also is asking about the incident, trying to determine whether or not to refer criminal charges against the congresswoman. The panel has not yet made its decision, and Starzyk asked if that is a distraction from McKinney's work.

"Well, you're a distraction because that seems to be all you want to talk about," McKinney responded. "But people here understand that my representation is much larger than any discrete incident."

McKinney then walked out on the interview. But she did not tell Starzyk that their conversation was over, nor did McKinney allow an audio technician to remove the wireless microphone attached to her for the interview.

While she was off camera, McKinney criticized a member of her staff, Coz Carson.

"Oh, crap! Now, you know what?" McKinney asked an unidentified aide. "They lied to Coz and Coz is a fool!"

Realizing that her microphone was still on, McKinney returned to the room where the interview was being conducted and, knowing that she was on camera, told Starzyk: "Anything that is captured by your audio, that is captured while I'm not seated in this chair, is off the record and is not permissible to be used. Is that understood?" McKinney said.

In her report about the interview, Starzyk reiterated the station's policy never to make deals with newsmakers limiting the station's ability to cover their comments or actions.

In fact, Starzyk reported, she specifically told McKinney's staff that she would ask about the March 29 incident. McKinney maintains her claim that the reporter lied to her staff.

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