A volunteer for President Donald Trump who blocked a photojournalist's camera during a rally on Thursday has been identified as Michigan City native and former LaPorte County Republican Party chairman Nick Barbknecht.
The image of Barbknecht with his hand outstretched blocking the lens of a press photographer during a rally in Evansville, Ind., has been circulating through media outlets and social media, gaining national attention. The rally was a part of Trump's campaign for Republican Mike Braun, who is running against Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly.
The photographer, Kevin Lamarque of Reuters, was trying to photograph rally attendees who were pointing out a nearby protester in the audience. That's when Barbknecht blocked the camera, and AP photographer Evan Vucci shot the photo that went viral of Barbknecht and Lamarque.
Lamarque identified Barbknecht to Time magazine. The Times confirmed Friday night that it is Barbknecht in the photo.
Olivier Knox, White House Correspondents' Association President and Chief D.C. Correspondent for Sirius XM, contacted the White House after hearing about the incident, which directed him to Trump's campaign.
Knox said Trump's campaign sent him a formal statement indicating that the volunteer in question had been “taken off the road” as a result of his actions. The campaign also said he was an “inexperienced volunteer, who understands that he acted in error.” The campaign also told Knox, “this will not happen again.” The Trump campaign did not name Barbknecht in the statement.
Knox said his colleague noted that this was the first time Barbknecht acted as “press lead” at a political event.
“This particular issue has been a reoccurring feature of presidential campaigns,” Knox said. “I've had similar experiences with every campaign I've covered. In 2012, when I was covering Mitt Romney's campaign, a Romney staffer physically blocked me from entering an event I had every right to be at and cover.”
Knox said the situation with the Romney staffer was quickly remedied after he called Romney's press secretary, and Knox was granted entry.
The President has been known to both verbally and in social media criticize the press as an “enemy of the people.”
“At times, the rhetoric from the President goes beyond the rhetoric of past presidents, but, again, this incident is fairly common,” Knox said.
Barbknecht did not respond to The Times requests for an interview Friday.
In December 2017, The Times reported that Barbknecht, 26 at the time, was hired as a strategist for Washington, D.C.-based firm, Majority Strategies. Barbknecht was named the LaPorte GOP chairman in March 2017, after working in government affairs for the Indiana Department of Transportation. Barbknecht said in part his move to D.C. was to be closer to his fiancee, Kenzie Clift, who is a press aide to Vice President Mike Pence.
"I’ll be working with some folks to help make sure Republicans all over the country win. We got national campaigns from Marco Rubio to Donald Trump and everywhere in between. Statehouse races all over the country," Barbknecht told The Times in the 2017 interview.
In Barbknecht's bio on the Majority Strategies site, reads, “Nick Barbknecht joins the Majority Strategies team from the blocking and tackling of Republican politics in Indiana.”
Check back at nwi.com for more updates.
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