Members of the media will not be allowed to cover the speech by media personality Tucker Carlson at the GOP Reagan-Rockefeller Dinner at the Hot Springs Convention Center Friday, at Carlson’s request.
The annual event is one of the Republican Party of Arkansas’ largest fundraisers. Last year’s keynote speaker was Donald Trump.
According to the media advisory, “Media will need credentials and, at the request of the speaker, will not be allowed inside the dining hall once speaking commences.”
Carlson began his career as a reporter at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He is co-founder and editor-in-chief of the conservative leaning The Daily Caller and is a weekend host of Fox & Friends on the Fox News Channel. He formerly was a host of the CNN debate show “Crossfire” and appeared on the third season of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”
Reporters will be allowed to cover the rest of the event, which begins with a reception at 6 p.m. followed by the dinner at 7 p.m.
Lauren Montgomery, RPA communications director, said, “The RPA wasn’t aware of media restrictions once Carlson was invited. Media is defined as anyone working for a news organization or publication that will be mass distributing information. He requests that there will be no recording of this event.
“We wish the entire event could be open to the press, however, we plan to honor his request that no media will be present during his presentation and hope the media will honor his request, as well.”
Doyle Webb, RPA chairman, said former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin made a similar request in 2010, and it was honored. Palin requested that her speech not be recorded, though media was allowed to be present.
Tres Williams, Arkansas Press Association director of government relations and communications, said Carlson’s request somewhat defeats part of the purpose of such a meeting.
“Because it’s privately funded, obviously they have the right to close the dinner once the speaker begins his address. It does seem to sort of frustrate the whole purpose of having an event like this in the first place, but apparently this was at the request of the speaker, and he has that right,” Williams said. “It just makes you wonder what he’s going to discuss that he might not want the public to know, because that is really the effect of excluding the media from an event like this is to keep things secret.”
H.L. Moody, spokesman for the Democratic Party of Arkansas, said his party’s annual dinner always has a press area that is policed according to the requests of the speaker.
“But we always let press in the room, and as a matter of fact, it’s kind of a (Democratic National Committee) rule that we have to let press come to any of our meetings or whatever,” he said.
The event May 13 will be followed May 14 by the State Committee Meeting, where the party will elect its remaining 25 at-large delegates to the Republican National Convention. Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Sen. Tom Cotton are scheduled to speak.