EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (NewsNation) — A NewsNation reporter was released from jail late Wednesday after being arrested earlier in the day during a news conference being held by Ohio’s governor about a train derailment.
Correspondent Evan Lambert was giving a live report during NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” when he was told by law enforcement personnel at the news conference to be quiet because Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine was speaking.
Lambert finished the live report but was then asked to leave by authorities, who tried to forcibly remove him from the event. The charges Lambert is facing are disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing.
NewsNation was expecting a statement from the East Palestine Police Department on Lambert’s arrest around 7 a.m. ET but has not yet received a release. Police said there is still no release and the network would get it once it is ready.
After Lambert was taken into custody, DeWine said he didn’t personally order the arrest.
“It has always been my practice that if I’m doing a press conference, someone wants to report out there and they want to be talking back to the people back on channel, whatever, they have every right to do that,” DeWine said. “If someone was stopped from doing that, or told they could not do that, that was wrong. It was nothing that I authorized.”
As Lambert was being placed in the back of a squad car, he said, “It’s tough to do your job in America in 2023, but we’ll keep doing it.”
The news conference in East Palestine, Ohio, was scheduled for 3 p.m. ET but had been delayed. DeWine eventually began speaking around 5 p.m., at the same time Lambert was scheduled to go live on NewsNation.
Preston Swigart, a photographer who was with Lambert, said Lambert was approached by police who asked him to stop talking. The news conference was held in an East Palestine Elementary School gymnasium.
“From their standpoint, he didn’t obey orders when he was told to stop talking,” Swigart said. “Gymnasiums are echoey and loud and sound kind of carries, so I’m guessing that they just didn’t like the fact that there was sound competing with the governor speaking, even though it was all the way at the other end of the room.”
NewsNation affiliate reporter Megan Lee, who was present at the time of the arrest, recounted the moments leading up to Lambert’s arrest on “Morning in America.”
“It seems like there was some type of physical altercation toward Evan. And then, I remember hearing Evan say like, ‘this is assault,’ or something. Honestly, I was in so much shock that they were trying to not let him do his job — it was shocking to me,” Lee said.
Lee said other law enforcement officers came over after Evan said it was assault, and that’s when things started to become aggressive.
Lambert is a Washington, D.C., correspondent and was in Ohio to cover the news conference, where DeWine was giving an update on evacuation orders that have been in place since a train derailed in East Palestine, a small town on the border with Pennsylvania.
About 50 freight cars, including 10 carrying hazardous materials, derailed in East Palestine at around 9 p.m. Friday. Rail operator Norfolk Southern said the train was carrying products from Madison, Illinois, to Conway, Pennsylvania, at the time of the derailment.
No injuries to the crew, residents or first responders have been reported due to the train derailment. But some people have complained of smelling chlorine or smoke and having headaches.
The derailment has sparked new concerns concerning dangerous chemicals. Authorities warned that burning vinyl chloride in five of the derailed tanker cars would send hydrogen chloride and phosgene into the air.
Lambert was released from the Columbiana County Jail shortly after 10 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
“I’m doing fine right now. It’s been an extremely long day,” Lambert said after his release. “No journalist expects to be arrested when you’re doing your job, and I think that’s really important that that doesn’t happen in our country.”
Mike Viqueria, NewsNation’s Washington Bureau chief, called the arrest a violation of the First Amendment that infuriates him.
“I was watching the press conference stream … and the only thing I heard that was disruptive was when this altercation with the police — which apparently they have instigated — was unfolding,” Viqueria said. “I did not hear anything of Evan’s voice when he was quietly speaking on live television. … As his boss, as his colleague, as a fellow journalist, it’s really infuriating.”
Lambert declined to disclose specific details about his arrest, citing the pending charges against him.
In video captured by NewsNation affiliate WKBN-TV leading up to the arrest shows four people appearing to be law enforcement officials in an argument with Lambert, attempting to get him to leave the gymnasium. At one point, one of the officers, who is wearing jeans and a green T-shirt with handcuffs on his belt, pulls on Lambert’s arm to forcibly remove him.
A struggle then ensues in the entrance to the gymnasium before Lambert is tackled to the ground and placed in handcuffs. The two officers who arrested him placed him in the back of a Columbia County sheriff’s vehicle.
In a statement to NewsNation, DeWine’s office reiterated the governor’s position that the interruption to Lambert’s broadcast should not have taken place.
“As the governor said at the conclusion of today’s briefing, he has always respected the media’s right to report live before, during, and after his press briefings,” the statement said. “Because the governor did not witness what occurred after the broadcast ended, we cannot provide comment on what led to the reporter’s arrest.”
NewsNation’s Devan Markham contributed to this report.