Conservative bloggers from the prominent Virginia website Bearing Drift were unceremoniously shut down and told to leave the Ted Constant Convocation Center Sunday night, just as former Alaska governor Sarah Palin took the stage.
Palin was the grand finale at Freedom Fest- a rally of conservative all-stars set up by local conservative morning talker Steve Batton at Freedom 1650 a.m. The lineup included Former Virginia Gov. George Allen, FOX news commentator Oliver North and patriotic crooner Lee Greenwood.
Blogger J.R. Hoeft was in the back of the room with his laptop and camera for the bulk of the event which started at 6:30 and ran until after 9 p.m. and Hoeft and Brian Kirwin were even live-blogging the event - offering up the occasional comment on the speeches and the crowd.
But after putting in hours waiting for Palin's appearance - her first in Hampton Roads since the 2008 campaign trail when thousands went to see her speak at the Virginia Beach Convention Center- Hoeft was approached by security as Palin took the stage and told to pack up his stuff. Hoeft said the security guard wouldn't identify who he was with, but said that no video or pictures could be taken of Palin during the event. They were even told to close their laptops.
"The absurdity of it all," Hoeft said on the phone late Monday. "If you're looking for conservative and Republican support in the Commonwealth of Virginia, I think the last thing you'd want to do is have one of the leading Republican blogs summarily dismissed."
Hoeft said he was taken aback by the unfair and restrictive limitations.
"It was extremely bizarre," Hoeft said. "She's potentially hurting her own case by handling it this way."
The restrictions are even more unusual because reporters from the Daily Press, Associated Press and Virginian Pilot were scattered throughout the crowd and allowed to remain in the speech. In fact, we were even able to shoot a video of Palin's full speech from the front row. (The quality stinks - but the audio is all there.)
A website dedicated to Palin took to defending the conservative icon, noting that palin did not travel with an entourage to the event. Her only company was her daughter Willow - so they think that the local folks are just trying to kick up a fuss."Unless it was Willow Palin who kicked you out, it was not the "Palin people" as she did not have any one from her staff with her other than her daughter.
I'll tentatively agree with the blogger that it wasn't a good idea by the Freedom Fest people to kick out an ally. However, the blogger should not cast blame on a party that wasn't even in attendance."
They didn’t kick out the press. They made bloggers from the biggest conservative blog in the state shut down laptops.
We had been told “no video and no audio” – big deal. All I was doing was typing an occasional comment, mostly about what the crowd reaction was.
Palin’s rules, and make no mistake about it, they were her rules as a contracted speaker, made her look like Nixon in drag.
It’s one thing to slap the “lamestream media” and they deserve it. But this was a bit heavyhanded to tell two volunteers with keyboards to stop typing."
We're trying to catch up with organizers to see what happened, and we'll update when we get more perspective. Meanwhile, here's the video of Palin's off limits speech.