U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

EPA removes reporter Ethan Stoetzer from Scott Pruitt event in Iowa

Incident Details

Date of Incident
December 1, 2017
Nevada, Iowa

Denial of Access

Government agency or public official involved
Type of denial
Government event
REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks during an interview with Reuters at his office in Washington, D.C., on July 10, 2017. 

— REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
December 1, 2017

Ethan Stoetzer, a reporter with InsideSources Iowa, was removed from and prevented from covering an event with Scott Pruitt, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, in Nevada, Iowa.

On Dec. 1, 2017, Pruitt spoke at the Couser Cattle Company about the EPA and its commitment to renewable fuels. The invite-only event was open to the press and was livestreamed to the public by the Des Moines Register.

Stoetzer attended the event as press, and gave his name and the name of his outlet to an EPA press secretary at the event.

In an article for InsideSources about the incident, Stoetzer wrote that he was approached by a Story County Sheriff’s Deputy, along with staff from both the EPA and the Couser Cattle Company, about 10 minutes after he arrived at the event.

According to Stoetzer, the staffers and sheriff’s deputy refused to identify themselves when asked, but told him that he was not on the press list for the event and ordered him to leave the premises. 

“They’re asking you to leave, you didn’t RSVP properly, and it’s too late to do it now,” Stoetzer recalled the sheriff’s deputy saying.

In his article about the incident, Stoetzer wrote that he had tried multiple times to RSVP for the event — calling and leaving voicemail messages for both a regional EPA press representative and the main EPA press office. 

Stoetzer also reported that the EPA allowed journalists from other outlets who were not on the press list to remain and cover the event.

Barry Thomas, the Chief Deputy of the Story County Sheriff's Office, told the Freedom of the Press Foundation that the office was asked to assist in removing Stoetzer from the Couser Cattle Company premises. 

“We were asked to do this by the person in charge of the private property and, because it was not a public event, we intervened to help keep the peace,” Thomas said in an email. “It is no different than what we would do for any private citizen.”

The EPA did not respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].