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Reporters (Mostly) Barred From Tea Party Convention

For a while, I’ve been calling and emailing the organizers of the National Tea Party Convention with some basic logistical questions, to no avail. Kevin Diaz explains why: the convention, held in Nashville next month, will be closed to all but “selected” members of the press.

Organizers say that journalists without passes will not be allowed into the convention at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. (A Star Tribune request for a pass was denied, the paper’s interest in covering its home-state congresswoman notwithstanding). Convention spokesman Judson Phillips informs us that most of the sessions are closed “at the request” of the presenters. “Given the media interest, I don’t want the sessions disrupted and overrun with the media,” he said.

This really is unusual. As a journalist, I’ve been allowed into sessions, dinners, everything at conferences hosted by the Eagle Forum and by Focus on the Family. Extra credit to Eagle Forum here — when I was covering the How to Take Back America Conference in St. Louis, Phyllis Schlafly’s son Andy, an organizer, invited me away from my media seat and into a seat at his dinner table to chat with more activists. And some of the most controversial speakers at the National Tea Party Convention, like Rick Scarborough, happily chatted with me inside and outside of their sessions at previous events.

One major implication of this, of course, is that for the third time since the presidential election — the first at a speech in China, the second at a speech for a pro-life group in Indiana — Sarah Palin will give a political speech that members of the media are not allowed to attend. According to co-sponsors I’ve spoken with, they, not journalists, will get to spend time with Palin before and after the speech.

UPDATE: Here’s the rejection email.

Thank you for your inquiry about media coverage of the First National Tea Party Convention in Nashville.

This is a working convention and the sessions will not be open to the press. We are planning two events that the media could have access to. Neither has been finalized. One would be on Friday and the other would be on Saturday.

We have a very limited number of press passes and they have been accounted for. Press without a pass will not be allowed into the convention area.

If you want to interview any of our speakers, please let me know and we will try to work that out. Governor Palin will not be available for interviews.

If you wish to interview someone about the convention, please email me, Judson@Teapartynation.com and I will try to work out arrangements for that.

He’ll try!

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