J. R. Romano on the night he was elected chairman. CTMIRROR.ORG

As the Connecticut Republican Party prepares to showcase its candidates for U.S. Senate and Congress, Chairman J.R. Romano created a media controversy Friday by banning a Hearst Connecticut Media reporter, Neil Vigdor, from its state convention on Monday.

“Let me be clear – Hearst Media Group isn’t banned from our convention, but I demand that our candidates be covered by someone with journalistic integrity,” Romano said in an email blast after Hearst reported the ban. “I recognize there’s going to be good and bad days in the media, but we are tired of being smeared by Neil Vigdor’s petty gossip. I have an obligation to defend this party.”

J. R. Romano on the night he was elected chairman.
Republican Chairman J. R. Romano CTMIRROR.ORG

Barbara T. Roessner, executive editor of the Hearst Connecticut Media Group, which owns the CT Post of Bridgeport, The News-Times of Danbury, The Hour of Norwalk, The Advocate of Stamford and the Greenwich Time, defended Vigdor and the news organization’s right to make its own coverage decisions.

“Political reporter Neil Vigdor will continue to provide fair and independent coverage of the state party nominating conventions this weekend,” Roessner said in a Hearst story. “Our job is to get information, analysis and insight to the public. A free press doesn’t require approval from the state Republican Party, or anyone else.”

Romano’s ban drew an immediate comparison by the Connecticut Democratic Party to Donald J. Trump’s constant criticism of the media and his call for tighter libel laws.

Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, leveled similar criticism.

“For a party that claims to honor the Constitution, it appears that Chairman Romano is quick to trash the First Amendment and deny freedom of the press,” Looney said. “This is a gross abuse of power and just another example of the Republican Party’s open hostility toward reporters. It’s almost like Romano is taking orders from Donald Trump.”

Romano said he had no regrets about his action, saying Hearst was unresponsive to his complaints, most recently at a meeting Thursday. Asked if he would reconsider, he said he was open to “clearing the air” with Vigdor before Monday.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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