MinnPost reporter Peter Callaghan was removed on Feb. 10, 2023, from the Minnesota House DFL Caucus media distribution list in apparent retaliation and reinstated a few weeks later after a coalition of news media defended the reporter and media access.
According to MinnPost editor Elizabeth Dunbar, Callaghan is back on the media list receiving emails and correspondence “just like other members of the press.”
The reporter’s removal stemmed from an incident on Feb. 9 between Callaghan and Matt Roznowski, the Director of Communications and Public Affairs for the House Democratic-Farmer-Labor Caucus. The DFL party currently holds five of the state’s offices including governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state auditor and state attorney general.
Following a verbal exchange between the two during a press conference at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Callaghan was removed from the House press list that provides updates to reporters with access to press releases and press conferences.
The MinnPost subsequently sent a letter to the House DFL Caucus objecting to Callaghan’s treatment and defending the media’s right to access public officials.
By Feb. 27, Callaghan had his media access restored, however in a back-and-forth exchange of correspondence between the House DFL Caucus and the MinnPost, the House DFL Caucus accused Callaghan of discrimination and harassment based on comments the reporter had made at the press conference.
In an April 12 letter, Leita Walker, an attorney with Ballard Spahr LLP, notified the House DFL Caucus that she represented a coalition of national and local news organizations that were banding together to defend Callaghan and the media’s right to access. The coalition included: Axios, Fox affiliate KMSP-TV, NBC affiliate KARE-TV, the Mankato Free Press, the Minnesota Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, Minnesota Public Radio, The Minnesota Reformer, the MinnPost.com, the (St. Paul) Pioneer Press and The Star Tribune.
“Excluding a member of the media from government communications after that member made a pointed but justifiable comment during a press conference smacks of retaliation and raises serious constitutional concerns,” Walker wrote.
In response, Speaker of the House Rep. Melissa Hortman made a public statement on April 14 explaining that a 2018 policy requires the House to investigate “an allegation of conduct that violates the House Policy Against Discrimination and Harassment.” Hortman said the House had taken action following Callaghan’s alleged behavior at the February press conference.
A few days later, on April 17, Hortman wrote again — this time acknowledging the media coalition letter. Hortman said the February press conference led to “flared tempers and misunderstandings” and suggested mending fences.
“I would be happy to meet with the media to discuss how we can rebuild trust and improve relationships going forward,” she stated in the letter.
As of May 9, members of the coalition are “discussing a follow-up meeting” with the Speaker of the House but nothing had been scheduled, MinnPost editor Dunbar said in an email with the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. There have been no new concerns about retaliation against Callaghan, she said.
When reached for comment, Ted Modrich, Minnesota House DFL Press Secretary who serves as Senior Advisor to the Speaker of the House and who responded for Melissa Hortman, said in an email: “The Speaker doesn’t have any comment beyond what she has already said publicly.”