The longtime spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has been reassigned after refusing to allow journalism students into news conferences and hurling insults at an ASU professor in an e-mail exchange.
County Attorney Andrew Thomas was unhappy with the e-mails Bill FitzGerald sent to Steve Doig, who was trying to arrange for students in his honors reporting class to attend Thomas’ news conferences, said Barnett Lotstein, special assistant county attorney.
FitzGerald, who has been the office spokesman 18 years, told Doig in the e-mails to “get lost” and called him a “condecending (sic) oaf,” and to force his attitude “on someone else who might feel sorry for you and your half-assed attempt to threaten me.”
FitzGerald told Doig members of ASU’s two student publications could attend and ask questions like other “legitimate” media outlets, but not those who were just in reporting classes.
“I’m surprised by your apparent belief that you have the unilateral power to decide who is a ‘legitimate’ journalist,” Doig wrote. “My understanding of the First Amendment is that government officials don’t have authority to grant or withhold licenses to do journalism.”
Lotstein said he believes the controversy was a misunderstanding in which FitzGerald thought Doig wanted his entire class to attend at once rather than a few students at a time.
Lotstein said he is in contact with Doig to arrange for students to attend.
“Mr. Thomas is a supporter of higher education,” Lotstein said. FitzGerald, who declined to comment, will still be doing “media related things” and preparing computer presentations for attorneys, Lotstein said. Doig couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.