Valley News Live’s Chris Berg has been very critical of Senator Heidi Heitkamp of late, specifically on the issue of the child abuse scandal at the Spirit Lake Reservation. As I noted previously, Senator Heitkamp has been largely silent on the issue until just recently.
Berg’s criticism prompted a phone call from Senator Heitkamp’s Chief of Staff Tessa Gould who, as Berg himself put it, attempted to dictate the content of Valley News Live’s programming and then announced that Senator Heitkamp wouldn’t be appearing on the show in the future.
It’s worth noting that Senator Heitkamp has been a frequent guest of Berg’s in the past, and that her brother Joel Heitkamp is a regular commentator on the program.
Berg describe’s the situation in the first several minutes of this video from Tuesday, which you really have to see to believe:
It seems Senator Heitkamp has learned well from the man she describes as her mentor. Back in 2009, at the height of the tea party protests, the Minot Daily News reported that Senator Kent Conrad had stormed out of a town hall meeting in Mohall after people there questioned him about Obamacare. A reporter friend at the paper told me that Senator Conrad subsequently showed up in the newspaper’s offices putting his finger in people’s chests demanding a retraction.
No retraction was forthcoming, and Conrad’s temper tantrum culminated months later in a bizarre letter to the editor granting the Minot Daily a forgiveness they hadn’t asked for.
Just as Conrad tried to bully the Minot Daily, Senator Heitkamp is now trying to bully Valley News Live. She got caught trying to turn an ugly scandal about child abuse into a partisan talking point against a Republican rival, and now she’s responding to the heat of criticism with threats and cut-off access.
That’s far from the yeah-sure-youbetcha Heidi Heitkamp we all got to know on the campaign trail. She’s using a tried-and-true tactic for killing criticism in small media markets like North Dakota: Threaten access if the criticism continues.
Kudos to Chris Berg and Valley News Live for going right back after Heitkamp instead of giving into the criticism.