U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

North Carolina state senator damages reporter’s phone in physical altercation

Incident Details


An image from NC Policy Watch reporter Joe Killian’s phone as North Carolina State Sen. Paul Lowe moves toward him

— Screenshot
September 11, 2019

Investigative reporter for NC Policy Watch, Joe Killian, said North Carolina State Sen. Paul Lowe assaulted him and threw his phone down a hallway of the legislative building on Sept. 11, 2019.

Killian was covering the aftermath of an unscheduled vote to overrule the governor’s veto of the state budget at approximately 10:20 a.m. when he heard screaming from behind a closed door and a shout for police assistance, Policy Watch reported. Killian began filming as Lowe came out of the room alongside two other congressmen.

In Killian’s video of the incident posted to NC Policy Watch’s channel on YouTube, Lowe notices Killian filming and moves toward him asking, “What are you doing with your camera?”

“I’m a journalist,” Killian replies as Lowe grabs at the hand holding the phone. Killian told Policy Watch that after a brief struggle the senator threw Killian’s phone down the hallway and walked away. Killian said that he was not injured in the altercation.

In the outlet’s write-up about the incident, NC Policy Watch Director Rob Schofield offered this statement: “Senator Lowe’s unprovoked actions this morning targeted a working journalist just doing his job. They were outrageous, unacceptable, and sadly indicative of a trend we’ve seen from an alarming number of public officials.”

“I apologize for anything that I’ve done,” Lowe said in the write-up. “It was an unfortunate circumstance. I apologize for that circumstance.”

The Greensboro News & Record reported that both Lowe and Killian had spoken with the N.C. General Assembly Police Department about the incident.

Schofield told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that Killian’s phone was ultimately destroyed. “He has purchased a new one and Senator Lowe has promised to reimburse our organization,” Schofield said.

Schofield told the Tracker that they do not anticipate any further legal proceedings at this point.

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