Pa. governor grabs reporter’s tape recorder, paper says

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

HARRISBURG, Pa. — An angry Gov. Ed Rendell took a tape recorder away from a newspaper reporter during an impromptu interview last week, refusing to give it back for several minutes, according to the paper.

According to a March 9 article in the Patriot-News of Harrisburg, reporter Brett Lieberman asked the governor on March 8 in Washington, D.C., about his decision to ask former U.S. Rep. Joe Hoeffel to withdraw from the race for lieutenant governor.

Rendell on March 7 told a radio reporter that he wished Hoeffel would withdraw from the race. Hoeffel had told Rendell three weeks earlier that he planned to run against the sitting lieutenant governor, Catherine Baker Knoll. Rendell told Hoeffel that he would support Knoll but did not ask Hoeffel not to run.

Lieberman’s article said Rendell’s “abrupt public reversal” raised questions among Democrats and Republicans that the governor “is prone to tell people what they want to hear.”

During the interview with Lieberman, the paper reported, Rendell “angrily denied suggestions” that his word could not be trusted. He then said, “It’s all B.S. You know it’s B.S. It’s politics,” and shortly thereafter took Lieberman’s tape recorder, refusing to return it for several minutes, according to the article.

Rendell called Lieberman several hours later and apologized for his remarks, saying he was frustrated by politics and insisting that he is a “straight shooter,” according to the newspaper.

Rendell, who appeared with Hoeffel on March 8 before he spoke with Lieberman, said he changed his mind and decided to ask Hoeffel to leave the race after Democratic officials in southwestern Pennsylvania warned that Knoll, a Pittsburgh-area native, would offer his re-election campaign more geographic balance than Hoeffel, who like Rendell is from southeastern Pennsylvania.

“The governor is clearly a passionate person, and he’s spent every day for the last 20 years being hounded by members of the media and being attacked by Republicans and the question for people who live their life like that is not how come it happened, but how come it doesn’t happen more often,” Rendell’s campaign spokesman Dan Fee said.

Rendell has been involved in other confrontations with reporters, including grabbing the neck of a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter in May 1994 when he was the city’s mayor. Philadelphia Daily News columnist Gar Joseph, in a March 10 item entitled “Rendell 6, reporters 0,” cites five other alleged physical confrontations with reporters from the Inquirer or Daily News.

In February 1999, the Daily News also reported that Rendell grasped a reporter’s notebook after becoming angry during an interview.

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