U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist gains access to Arizona county news conferences following suit

Incident Details

Date of Incident
September 30, 2022
Phoenix, Arizona
Case number
Case Status
Type of case

Denial of Access

Government agency or public official involved
Reuters/Jim Urquhart

The chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in Arizona speaks to the media in November 2022, as the county tabulated the general election results. Reporter Jordan Conradson sued the county that month for denying him press credentials.

— Reuters/Jim Urquhart
September 30, 2022

Reporter Jordan Conradson of The Gateway Pundit settled a lawsuit that alleged he was wrongly denied press credentials on Sept. 30, 2022, by Maricopa County, Arizona. In the April 2023 settlement, the country agreed to pay The Gateway Pundit $175,000, and Conradson gained access to the county’s news conferences.

On Sept. 27, 2022, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors announced that ahead of the November general election, media would be required to apply for press credentials through an online form in order to attend news conferences, part of an elections initiative designed to “combat disinformation.”

The move came in the wake of the 2020 election, whose results were hotly contested by the Republican-led state Senate after Democrats won races in the county for both the presidency and the U.S. Senate. Outside groups aligned with the losing presidential candidate, incumbent Donald Trump, poured millions of dollars into fraud investigation efforts in the county, although the certified results of the vote were ultimately confirmed.

Conradson, a frequent purveyor of these fraud allegations, submitted an application for press credentials to Maricopa County. In a Sept. 30 email reviewed by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, the county notified Conradson that his application had been denied because “You (a) do not avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest and (b) are not free of associations that would compromise journalistic integrity or damage credibility. Therefore, you are not a bona fide correspondent of repute in your profession.”

On Nov. 10, Conradson appealed the decision via email and an attorney sent a cease-and-desist letter to the county on his behalf demanding that he be allowed to attend the county’s news conferences. On Nov. 12, the journalist and the outlet filed a federal suit against a group of county officials, alleging that Conradson’s First Amendment rights had been violated and applying for an emergency temporary restraining order against the county.

On Nov. 23, the court denied the temporary restraining order request, rejecting the plaintiffs’ arguments that the county’s rules were overly vague and the procedure lacked due process.

While the county’s use of “criteria for ethical reporting” to determine who could attend news conferences was “problematic insofar as it invites the government to play a role in policing the free press, whose constitutionally protected function is to hold the government to account,” the court wrote, the restrictions seemed reasonable and did not discriminate against Conradson on the basis of his political views.

The plaintiffs appealed the ruling on Nov. 28 and requested an injunction pending an order on their appeal. On Dec. 5, the appeals court granted the injunction, ordering the county to issue Conradson temporary press credentials while his appeal was pending.

“It is the County’s politically-tinged assessment of Conradson’s prior reporting that appears to have led it to deny him a press pass,” the court wrote. “That type of viewpoint-based discrimination is exactly what the First Amendment protects against.”

The appeal over a more permanent press pass for Conradson continued for several months, with oral arguments taking place in January 2023. On April 12, KPNX reported that the parties had settled, with the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors approving a settlement award to The Gateway Pundit. On April 28, the parties dismissed the federal suit and appeal.

“This is a major win for The Gateway Pundit and independent media in America today,” The Gateway Pundit wrote in its report on the settlement. “It sets precedent for independent journalists of merit to gain access to government press briefings. We cannot adequately express the importance of this decision.”

The outlet and Conradson did not respond to a request from the Tracker for further comment. While reports on the settlement do not mention whether Conradson received county press credentials, Conradson’s bio on the outlet’s website says that he “finally gained access” to the Maricopa County press room.

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