April Ryan’s bodyguard roughs up NJ journalist for taping speech
NEW BRUNSWICK — A New Jersey journalist and activist says he was roughed up by a bodyguard for a White House reporter known for criticizing President Donald Trump’s anti-media rhetoric.
New Brunswick Today editor and publisher Charlie Kratovil was dragged out of The Heldrich Hotel on Aug. 3 after he refused to stop video-recording CNN analyst April D. Ryan’s speech during the New Jersey Parent Summit.
“When I speak, I don’t have news covering my speech,” Ryan told the crowd as Kratovil's camera was booted.
Kratovil is faulting Ryan for the way her bodyguard handled the situation, which has drawn attention because the correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks has made a name for herself by criticizing Trump’s rhetoric against journalists. Her 2018 book, “Under Fire,” is about how reporters are increasingly under attack.
Ryan has said she had to hire a bodyguard because of the death threats she’s received as a result of standing up to Trump. Last year, she said that then-White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders should foot the bill.
Kratovil is no right-wing supporter of Trump. He’s run for mayor of Hub City as an independent and has demonstrated outside the office of U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J. 6th District, to call for impeachment proceedings. But now his story has been covered by Fox News and is being shared by critics of the media and supporters of the president.
“My comments have been respectful. I came to the event out of respect for her,” Kratovil said. “I don’t doubt that she needs qualified protection. But the person she brought with her that night was not behaving appropriately and that’s intolerable.”
Ryan has not commented on the incident in New Brunswick and she blocked a New Jersey 101.5 reporter on Twitter on Wednesday after asking her to respond to Kratovil’s tweets about the event.
But people connected with the event chalked it up as a misunderstanding and said that Kratovil refused repeated requests to turn off his camera at a private venue, which was also attended by TAPinto.
According to a police report obtained by New Jersey 101.5, event organizer Shennell Barnes told police that Ryan hired Joel Morris as a bodyguard because she “has had several threats on her life in the past.”
Police said Morris admitted grabbing a hold of Kratovil’s camera and moving it to the lobby. The report says Kratovil said the guard “utilized some kind of compliance hold and subsequently caused pain to Kratovil’s left wrist,” but Kratovil declined medical attention at the scene.
Kratovil said he had permission to be at the event, which he had obtained in an Aug. 2 email from Juan Melli at Mercury Public Affairs, which handled the media invites.
Kratovil said he recorded several hours of the event but was approached by the bodyguard as Ryan was about to take the stage. Kratovil said Morris threatened to take down his camera if Kratovil didn't shut it off.
Kratovil said that when event organizers asked him to stop recording because Ryan would not take the stage otherwise, he again refused, explaining that he would not stop recording until the bodyguard identified himself and explained why he had threatened him.
As Kratovil and organizers talked outside of the hall, the bodyguard unplugged the camera and moved it to the lobby, which Kratovil described as theft.
Kratovil said the bodyguard then assaulted him by dragging him out of the hotel.
“I find it extremely unexpected and unbecoming,” Kratovil said Wednesday. “To have this come from somebody who is not just a reporter but someone doing it for a long time on a high level, it was astounding that this could be allowed to happen.”
Barnes told police that “Kratovil’s invite to the event by Juan Melli was not approved and was possibly some kind of clerical error.”
In a statement on Wednesday, Mo Butler, a partner at Mercury, acknowledged that “one of our employees invited Charlie Kratovil to attend the event” but declined to comment further because “Mercury did not have staff on-site the day of the event."
Police did not make any arrests. Kratovil said he intends to press charges against Morris but had not done so by Wednesday.
Kratovil said his only regret was using profanity after being accosted, “but I thought my position was a reasonable one and I think the actions taken by Mr. Morris are not only unreasonable but illegal.”