Minnesota governor apologizes for arrest of CNN crew

NEW YORK (AP) — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz apologized to CNN, saying he takes total responsibility for the arrest of one of the network’s crews Friday as they reported on violent protests in Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd.

“This is a very public apology to that team,” Walz said at a news conference hours after correspondent Omar Jimenez and two colleagues were taken into custody by the Minnesota State Patrol and later released.

Jimenez was handcuffed and led away while reporting live on the air shortly after 5 a.m. Central Time. His colleagues Bill Kirkos and Leonel Mendez were also taken away, with Mendez placing his still-running camera on the ground to record his arrest.

When first approached by officers, Jimenez, who is black, told them, “put us back where you want us. We are getting out of your way.”

After being told he was being arrested and his microphone taken away for handcuffing, Jimenez asked why he was being arrested and did not get an answer.More Stories:

The Minnesota State Patrol said on Twitter that the journalists were among four people arrested as troopers were “clearing the streets and restoring order” following the protests. Floyd died on Memorial Day shortly after being taken into custody on suspicion of passing a bad check and a white police officer knelt on his neck.

The patrol said the CNN journalists “were released once they were confirmed to be members of the media.”

Jimenez was holding what appeared to be a laminated ID card before he was handcuffed, and his fellow crew members told police that they were from CNN and showing the scene live on the air.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” CNN “New Day” co-anchor John Berman said.

CNN chief executive Jeff Zucker quickly called Walz demanding to know what happened, the governor said. The crew was released within an hour.

After being led out of a police van and released, Jimenez said he was confused about what happened since he had been showing his credentials to authorities while covering the story all week. He said he was glad that his arrest was shown on the air.

“You don’t have to doubt my story,” he said. “It’s not filtered in any way. You saw it for your own eyes. That gave me a little bit of comfort. But it was definitely nerve-wracking.”

The National Association of Black Journalists condemned the arrest of Jimenez.

“We are relieved to see Omar has been released, but we are still disturbed by the apparent violation of First Amendment rights that are the bedrock of journalism,” NABJ tweeted Friday. Similarly, CNN competitors MSNBC, CBS News and Fox News all condemned the arrest.

The Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law at the University of Minnesota also denounced the arrests.

“The CNN crew, as well as all journalists, have a First Amendment right to cover the protests,” said Jane E. Kirtley, Silha Professor of Media Ethics and Law and director of the Silha Center.

Walz said it was important for all journalists covering the story to know that their safety was a top priority.

“We have got to ensure that there is a safe spot for journalism to tell this story,” he said.

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Jim Williams is the Washington Bureau Chief, Digital Director as well as the Director of Special Projects for Genesis Communications. He is starting his third year as part of the team. This is Williams 40th year in the media business, and in that time he has served in a number of capacities. He is a seven time Emmy Award winning television producer, director, writer and executive. He has developed four regional sports networks, directed over 2,000 live sporting events including basketball, football, baseball hockey, soccer and even polo to name a few sports. Major events include three Olympic Games, two World Cups, two World Series, six NBA Playoffs, four Stanley Cup Playoffs, four NCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship Tournaments (March Madness), two Super Bowl and over a dozen college bowl games. On the entertainment side Williams was involved s and directed over 500 concerts for Showtime, Pay Per View and MTV Networks.