U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Miami mayor tries to grab phone from reporter’s hands

Incident Details

Date of Incident
September 9, 2023
Miami, Florida


Was the journalist targeted?
REUTERS/Marco Bello

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, pictured here speaking at an event in February 2023, attempted to ‘snatch’ the phone from Miami Herald investigative reporter Sarah Blaskey when she asked him a question outside a budget hearing on Sept. 9, 2023.

— REUTERS/Marco Bello
September 9, 2023

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez attempted to “snatch” the phone from Miami Herald investigative reporter Sarah Blaskey’s hands at City Hall on Sept. 9, 2023, after she asked him about a complaint being investigated by the state ethics commission.

The Herald reported that Blaskey approached Suarez in a hallway outside a city budget hearing and asked him about his multiday appearance at the Formula One Miami Grand Prix using tickets provided by a hedge fund executive. Suarez initially told Blaskey that once she made an appointment with his assistant he’d be happy to speak with her.

In footage of the interaction, Blaskey then appeared to tilt her phone up in order to capture Suarez’s face, at which point the mayor noticed that he was being filmed and attempted to grab the device from her hands. A sergeant-at-arms who serves as his bodyguard intervened and acknowledged Blaskey’s right to record, according to the Herald.

Blaskey seemed visibly shaken by the interaction in her footage, but persisted in asking Suarez about whether he had been approached by federal investigators and how much he paid back for the tickets.

Following the incident, the mayor’s office released this statement: "Mayor Francis Suarez has repeatedly answered questions from the local newspaper about the Formula One (F1) event. Last Saturday, after having answered several questions on the subject, without prior notice and unnecessarily, the reporter placed her cell phone inches from the mayor's personal space, who was surprised and, as any human being would react, moved the device away from his face.”

The mayor’s office did not respond to an emailed request for further comment.

In a column for the newspaper, Herald Executive Editor Alex Mena condemned Suarez’s attempt to grab the phone from Blaskey, stating that, “Any kind of physical interaction with our reporters is not acceptable.”

Mena also criticized the mayor’s response to the incident, noting that more than half of the outlet’s 55 requests for comment from the mayor have gone unanswered.

“The mayor has since misrepresented to other news outlets his willingness to speak with our reporters, with his office issuing a statement saying the mayor has ‘repeatedly responded’ to the Miami Herald’s questions and that Saturday’s confrontation occurred after he answered ‘several questions on the topic,’” Mena wrote. “In fact, Suarez answered none of our questions that day — until our reporters confronted him with a camera rolling.”

Senior Managing Editor Dana Banker told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that Suarez has not apologized to Blaskey, but agreed to meet with leadership from the Herald on Sept. 22.

“[Blaskey] was shaken up and understandably so,” Banker said. “We want to get with the mayor and talk this through tomorrow. ... It was 100% unacceptable and we’re going to make that clear.”

Banker added: “At the end of the day we’re just going to keep digging and we’re going to let our reporting speak for itself. But it definitely is not going to chill anything we’re doing here at the Herald.”

Editor's Note: This article has been updated to clarify that two ethics complaints were filed against Miami Mayor Francis Suarez. One of the complaints, before the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics & Public Trust, was dismissed after it was found to be legally insufficient. A second complaint is under investigation by the Florida Commission on Ethics.

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