Tallahassee Democrat senior writer Stephen Price on Friday was singled out and asked to leave a media area at the Panama City rally of presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.
Price was among at least three other reporters, and the only black reporter, surrounding McCain's campaign bus — Gov. Charlie Crist and his fiancee, Carole Rome, were already aboard — when a member of the Arizona senator's security detail asked the reporter to identify himself. Price had shown his media credentials to enter the area.
Price showed his employee identification as well as his credentials for the Friday event.
"I explained I was with the state press, but the Secret Service man said that didn't matter and that I would have to go," Price said.
When another reporter asked why Price was being removed, she too was led out of the area. Other state reporters remained.
Jonathan Block does advance work for McCain's campaign. He was in Panama City on Friday but was not present when reporter Stephen Price was asked to move from a restricted area.
"Access to the senator is tightly controlled," Block said. "I would first express regret that your reporter was moved, and I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that race had nothing to do with it."
Tallahassee Democrat Executive Editor Bob Gabordi said the incident was unwarranted.
"We're deeply concerned and disturbed that our reporter — of all of those in that area — was asked to move," Gabordi said. "My understanding is that Stephen was the only reporter approached and asked to leave the area, and the only reporter in that area who is black. Another reporter who stood up for Stephen was then asked to leave."
A Panama City police officer approached while Price was speaking to the security member. Panama City police were unavailable for comment Friday night.
Block said the area where Price was standing was restricted to members of the traveling national press corps that accompanies McCain on the campaign trail.
"At the end of the day, your reporter was in the wrong place. I do not know why the other reporters were not moved. The rest of the local press should have been moved as well," Block said.
The campaign advance man said there were many reasons that could have prompted Price being asked to move, depending on how visible his press identification was, whether he had a bag and possibly information about McCain's movement, which could have prompted the security person to move people in one area and not in another.
"It's really like a pressure cooker with security," Block said.