Journalists barred from mayor’s press event to prevent questioning of foreign trip

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) — So far this year, Mayor Cantrell and his top aides have spent more than $80,000 in taxpayer dollars to fund business trips in the United States and abroad. Meanwhile, some feel the amount of travel is a concern, distracting the mayor from bigger issues here at home.

On Thursday, July 28, the mayor’s office invited the media to witness Mayor Cantrell sign a facial recognition order. But instead, the mayor’s office barred reporters from entering the room; only allowing photographers inside.

The action prevented reporters from asking the mayor questions about crime, infrastructure needs, and lingering concerns about his frequent trips at taxpayer expense.

A reporter asked if the mayor would take questions after the event, to which a communications assistant replied, “I said no comments.”

Another reporter asked, “How are we going to get sound on this story then?”

Two and a half hours before the event, FOX 8 called Cantrell’s director of communications, Gregory Joseph, in advance to set up interviews. But Greggory said they won’t allow off-topic questions and that if questions are shouted at the event “there will be problems”.

Again, the mayor’s office banned journalists from participating in the press event.

“The mayor is thinking about the city of New Orleans 24/7, no matter where it is,” Joseph said.

Public records show the mayor and her team spent more than $38,000 on travel expenses in 2021.

By July 2022, that number had nearly doubled to more than $82,000 in taxpayer money. This total does not include the costs of his last trips to Switzerland and France for sister city agreements.

“It’s about responsibility,” said Tulane professor emeritus Joel Friedman. “She has the podium to explain to the population why she makes these trips. She may have a very good explanation. She has a public appearance and she doesn’t let the press in or answer questions. What does that suggest to you? What is the conclusion from this? »

“The inference is that I don’t have anything positive to say, you’re embarrassed you can’t explain it, or you think it’s none of the public’s business. And all of those answers are wrong answers.

Friedman said the frequency of his travels raises a judgment call — not a legal one.

“Isn’t it the public’s business to know why you’re going on a trip? Of course it is. It’s almost like Nixon, hiding, not making yourself available. I wouldn’t have thought she would do such a thing. She gets really bad advice, he said.

It is then that the mayor is preparing for a trip to Singapore to participate in discussions on climate change. Her communications team announces that she will be the only US mayor to sit on the panel.

Council members Eugene Green and Oliver Thomas are preparing to travel to Africa on business related to affordable housing.

While Council Member Green did not comment on the upcoming trip, Council Member Thomas said he is opting out of the business travel policy by taking time off and paying for the trip himself.

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