U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Reporter assaulted at Tennessee mayoral forum

Incident Details

Date of Incident
September 27, 2023
Franklin, Tennessee


Was the journalist targeted?

A police officer in Franklin, Tennessee, intervenes on behalf of WTVF-TV chief investigative reporter Phil Williams after a woman attending a mayoral forum repeatedly attempted to grab or knock the phone from his hands on Sept. 27, 2023.

September 27, 2023

WTVF-TV chief investigative reporter Phil Williams was assaulted while attempting to cover a mayoral forum in Franklin, Tennessee, on Sept. 27, 2023.

Williams said in a broadcast for the station that he and a photographer had been invited by the organizer of the forum in the upscale community of Westhaven, where incumbent Mayor Ken Moore and candidate Gabrielle Hanson were speaking with residents.

As the journalists waited to enter the room alongside attendees, Williams reported that some of Hanson’s supporters attempted to block them from entering the room, standing shoulder to shoulder to try to keep their camera out.

“One of them got a little testy with me,” Williams added.

In footage he captured and posted on social media, Williams confirms that a woman standing in front of him had struck his arm. Minutes later, she can be heard telling him, “Get your camera out of my face!” She then reaches out to grab his cellphone or knock it from his hands.

A Franklin Police Department officer immediately intervenes and tells the woman to “Stop touching him or you’re going to jail.”

Other Westhaven residents standing near the woman can later be heard saying, “Nobody wants you here” and “He’s the only liberal hack here,” while pointing at Williams.

Neither mayoral candidate responded to requests for comment or to confirm whether they had agreed to the attendance of the WTVF news crew.

Williams wrote in a subsequent post that in order to diffuse the situation he agreed to remain outside the room while his photographer filmed from inside, noting that it did make it difficult to continue reporting in real time.

Williams did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

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