Why were conservative bloggers tossed from the Norfolk, Va. Freedom Fest event? 

JR Hoeft and Brian Kirwin are well known in the Virginia blogosphere as two of the prominent conservative bloggers at the very popular Bearing Drift blog in the Virginia Beach area. JR has traveled throughout the Commonwealth live-blogging and covering conservative events including the 2009 Republican Party of Virginia state convention, Rep. Eric Cantor's 2009 Republican Roundup, and Gov. Bob McDonnell's 2010 inauguration.

So what was behind his removal at Norfolk's Sunday night Freedom Fest with headliners Sarah Palin, Oliver North, former Virginia Governor George Allen, and patriotic country singer Lee Greenwood?

Accounts of what occurred sounded as if JR and Brian were covering the event without incident until it was time for Sarah Palin to speak, and then they were asked to pack up their gear and leave. Reportedly, Gov. Palin's ground rules said only the first five minutes of her speech could be covered.

According to JR in a piece he wrote in Wednesday's Washington Times, event personnel, not Gov Palin's people, asked that he close his laptop and stop covering the Governor five minutes into her speech. After trying to explain that he had permission to be there, he made one last live-blog entry, "So much for transparency. We're being kicked out," and left.

There must have been some kind of mix up because it does not make sense for a conservative gathering to ask conservative bloggers to stop covering a conservative speaker while allowing the mainstream media outlets Associated Press, Daily Press, and the Virginian Pilot to remain. After all, conservative bloggers are usually more interested in disseminating the message than in "gotcha" moments.

News of the incident has spread throughout the Virginia blogosphere including a post at the Daily Press’ Shad Plank blog. JR Hoeft, meanwhile, wrapped up his account of the incident by suggesting, "Mrs. Palin, please change your rules. Let conservatives cover you. Let anyone cover you. You have a lot to offer."

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Lynn R. Mitchell

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