Local reporter claims lawmaker slapped him
Concerns have been raised in the Alaska Senate over the conduct of freshman legislator David Wilson (R-Wasilla) after a reporter with the Alaska Dispatch News filed a police report claiming Wilson slapped him across the face.
The Alaska Dispatch News reports it happened Tuesday afternoon in the main stairwell of the capitol building after political reporter Nathaniel Herz approached Wilson about a story Herz published Sunday.
The article raised eyebrows about whether Wilson may have introduced a bill to benefit his previous employer, Alaska Family Services. Wilson worked for the Palmer-based nonprofit through his election last fall.
On Tuesday, Herz told the Alaska Dispatch he was traveling between lawmakers’ offices, carrying his smartphone, which was set to record his conversations.
“Herz was walking down a flight of stairs toward the Capitol’s ground floor when he saw Wilson also descending and caught up with him to ask about Sunday’s story,” Dispatch reporter Chris Klint wrote.
An audio recording from Herz’ phone reveals the following interaction:
“What do you think, was that reasonable?” Herz asks.
“Reasonable?” Wilson responds.
“Fair?” Herz asks.
Wilson sighs, “fair?”
After another breath, the sound of what appears to be an impact is heard.
“There we go,” Wilson says.
Moments later, Herz asks, “Was that serious? Or playful, or like…,” Herz trails off.
According to the Dispatch report, Sen. Mia Costello walked up seconds later.
“Hm, uh, he uh slapped me. That was interesting,” Herz is heard saying.
When KTVA asked Wilson whether he hit Herz, Wilson would only reply, “no comment.”
After airing the audio, KTVA asked Wilson for comment a second time.
Wilson said, “I am not a violent person.”
In a statement Wednesday, Alaska Dispatch editor David Hulen wrote:
“We support our reporter. It’s not OK for a legislator to strike anyone.”
Senate Majority Press Secretary, Daniel McDonald, released a statement late Wednesday:
“The Senate expects professional conduct and decorum from all members. Until all the facts surrounding the situation described are available, we have no further comment,” McDonald wrote.
Juneau Public Safety Manager, Erann Kalwara, confirmed a report of someone being slapped in the capitol building was filed Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. The incident is under investigation, according to Kalwara, but the department cannot release the name of the victim or suspect.
Kalwara confirmed that an incident similar to the one described would likely be a misdemeanor assault. No charges have been filed.
When asked what he made of the audio recording, Senate President Pete Kelly told KTVA that if what Herz reports is true, Wilson’s behavior is “wrong.” Kelly says the Senate will wait to see what the police investigation finds.
Herz declined to comment beyond the statement he provided Alaska Dispatch News.
Herz told the paper, “I was not enthusiastic about taking this to the police,” Herz said. “But I also felt like I couldn’t accept this kind of behavior from a public official.”
Herz told Dispatch he was not injured, but that “it was not a love tap.”