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Media ejected at open forum

Congressman apologizes, meets privately with press

Staff writers

Two representatives of the news media were ordered by Marion police chief Gideon Cody to leave a public reception Tuesday for U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner.

Cody’s directions came at the behest of Kari Newell, proprietor of Chef’s Plate in Marion’s Historic Elgin Hotel and its coffee shop across the street, Kari’s Kitchen, where the event was taking place.

Cody said that Newell asked that Record publisher Eric Meyer and Record reporter Phyllis Zorn be evicted before LaTurner arrived.

Moments before Cody ordered Meyer and Zorn to leave, Newell had told Zorn: “I will not have members of the media in my establishment. You have to leave.”

Told that the congressman’s staff had specifically asked the media to attend, Newell answered: “I don’t care. I will not have the media in my establishment.”

The congressman arrived for his scheduled 3 p.m. meeting at 3:12 p.m.

Six minutes later, a staffer identifying herself as Rachel Green told the Record’s publisher, who was waiting outside: “I’m going to bring over somebody to chat with you. I’m kind of getting filled in on what’s been happening. So if you’d wait just a moment.”

Another 12 minutes after that, she and two others appeared on the porch of the coffee shop and chatted at length.

One remained, talking on a cell phone for 21 additional minutes before walking across the street, where the Record’s publisher had remained, sitting on a curb in 106-degree heat.

Identifying himself as Jake Canard, the congressman’s district director, he said: “It’s a private business. We weren’t aware that this was the situation. We obviously wanted the press to be here.”

When asked what situation existed, he replied: “The proprietor of the business does not want you on the property is what she told us.”

Asked whether the congressman’s staff would take steps to ensure that future events were not at places where the press was excluded, he said: “Absolutely. We invited you here. Clearly, we obviously want the press. We’re happy to give you some time to visit with Jake after this if you’d like.”

LaTurner stopped at the Record office after leaving the coffee shop.

On a six-week trip to tour all counties in his district, he said he had been listening to voters’ concerns.

Asked whether he thought people were interested in the same things congressmen were talking about, LaTurner admitted he did not.

“There’s a thing called Potomac Fever, and it is a real thing, and it’s highly contagious,” LaTurner said. “People become insulated in this D.C. bubble, and what they’re talking about on a daily basis is not what average people across the state are talking about.”

He said average people in Marion County were talking about housing and farm legislation.

Federal debt is important to LaTurner.

“We are $32 trillion in debt, and we have to spend less money than we do now,” LaTurner said.

He said he regarded deficit reduction as a moral issue — that it fundamentally is unfair to saddle future generations with debt from excessive spending today.

He said he wanted more of the money the federal government spent to come to Kansas instead of “the coasts.”

“Our challenge on the House side is the margin,” LaTurner said. “We have a thin margin. It’s hard to keep everybody rolling in the same direction.”

The congressman said he was “a big supporter” of the government’s 340B program, which has been a point of dispute between Lanning Pharmacy and St. Luke Hospital in Marion.

Hearing about that dispute, LaTurner said an investigation might be in order.

LaTurner’s stop at Marion was one of three he made in the county Tuesday. Earlier he toured Barkman Honey and Container Services in Hillsboro.

He praised Barkman and cited its global impact as one of the biggest honey producers.

LaTurner represents Kansas’ 2nd District. Marion County recently was transferred to his district from the 1st District.

Last modified Aug. 3, 2023

 

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