Two newspaper journalists were returning from Haiti on a cargo plane with earthquake evacuees when they were detained and threatened with arrest by the president of Orlando Sanford International Airport.
The reporters were from the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal, but the issue has enraged the Orlando Sentinel into publishing a scathing editorial against airport president Larry Dale, whom they regard as a “bully” on a “power trip.”
Tina Susman of the Los Angeles Times and Dionne Searcey of the Wall Street Journal were wearing media credentials around their neck Tuesday as they sat on a bus interviewing a Haitian nun who had survived the earthquake.
They were suddenly ordered off the bus and forced into a conference room where they were detained for 30 minutes while being accused of being terrorists.
According to the Orlando Sentinel.
Susman, a national correspondent who was Baghdad bureau chief for two years and spent 11 years covering Africa, said Dale insinuated that she and Searcey could be stowaways or terrorists with fake credentials. She said he shouted at her to sit down and be quiet.
Airport officials had decided to keep reporters away from earthquake survivors after learning that the media had “mobbed” earthquake survivors in Fort Lauderdale and “caused serious concerns with the repatriation efforts,” according to the report.
So it’s obviously another case of some idiot playing editor.
News of the bullying did not surprise the Orlando Sentinel, who wrote the following in an editorial:
Larry Dale, autocrat of Orlando Sanford International Airport, has a well-deserved reputation locally as a bully. He has browbeaten low-level staff, other officials and journalists, like a Sentinel photographer he tried to order off someone else’s property.
His notoriety may spread after an incident this week at the airport. Mr. Dale ordered a pair of reporters who had flown in with evacuees from Haiti to get off a bus. The Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times reporters, wearing press passes, were taken to a conference room and questioned a half-hour before they were released. The Times reporter said Mr. Dale threatened to handcuff them.
Running an airport is no excuse for such power trips. Mr. Dale should be ashamed, if he had any shame.
Both the Los Angeles Times and Orlando Sentinel are owned by Tribune Company.