Bexar County D.A. ducks accountability by shutting out newspaper
Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood is refusing to talk to the San Antonio Express-News and is blocking them from attending press conferences that he holds. The Express-News is the fourth-largest daily newspaper in the state of Texas in terms of circulation and a leading news source for South Texas. Bexar County is the seventh-most populous county in the nation and the fourth-most populated in Texas.
According to the Express-News, LaHood didn’t inform the paper that two press conferences were occurring, and then refused to allow reporters and photographers from the paper in when they showed up. LaHood and his spokesperson are also not returning phone calls from the newspaper.
The animus appears to run deep. LaHood accused the newspaper of dishonesty in a Facebook post last year.
“If I am not expected to tolerate bad behavior from criminals, then I cannot tolerate bad behavior from unethical journalism,” LaHood said, specifically expressing anger at a column where a defense lawyer was quoted as calling LaHood a bully.
The Express-News has written several other critical stories about LaHood, including an allegation that he threatened to destroy the legal practice of two defense lawyers if they publicly made allegations that a prosecutor was having a sexual relationship with a key witness in a murder case. A state district judge backed the defense lawyers and said LaHood made the threat in her presence.
The powerful role of the district attorney is an increasingly frequent conversation. By boxing out reporters and photographers from his county’s biggest newspaper, LaHood is curtailing access, which runs the dangerous risk of making himself and his office less accessible and transparent. As the Express-News editorial page said “Whether you love or hate the media, blocking their access at any level by any public official infringes on the First Amendment and a free press. That, in turn, impinges on your right to information.”