The host of a NEK-TV cable TV show was not allowed to call Gov. Phil Scott press briefings twice a week in February 2021 because the governor determined the host to be more of a entertainment as information.
‘This is news for us’ host Steve Merrill of North Troy has been told he can no longer ask questions of the Governor and members of his administration during media question and answer period which tracks COVID-related administration updates on Tuesdays and Fridays. The number of media representatives asking questions at briefings typically ranges from 20 to 30. Merrill had been asking questions in the media since May.
Following Merrill’s question on February 2, 2021, the governor said nothing more.
Merrill had raised the possibility of setting aside doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for the black, native and colored community of Vermont and asked: how would one qualify as native? “
He concluded the question with what he later admitted to be “a crack” referring to former presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren. “Are we using the Elizabeth Warren standard with high cheekbones or have you just taken people at their word?” Merrill asked.
Rebecca Kelley, the governor’s director of communications, said the issue has troubled many. In a letter to NEK-TV director Tod Pronto, she noted that “many Vermonters” were concerned about Merrill’s “offensive question”.
She emailed Merrill and NEK-TV director Tod Pronto of the decision to deny Merrill access to the press conferences.
“We have determined that you are not using these briefings – or your questions at the briefings – to produce a good faith story, but rather for a recreational entertainment program,” Kelley said. “Q&A at administration COVID press briefings are intended for journalists asking questions for good faith reporting. “