Maj. Gen. John Harris claimed that after Lambert was on the air, he threatened the military man with his large stature and that Harris had to protect himself from Lambert, who he claimed was approaching him.
However, body camera video from an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper showed evidence that disputed that story.
The video shows that Harris was the aggressor, shoving his finger into Lambert’s chest and becoming enraged and focused-in on the journalist as law enforcement members tried to get the general to stop. As the situation became more heated, officers grabbed Lambert and violently forced him to the ground as they arrested him.
Lambert was charged with resisting arrest and criminal trespass — both misdemeanors.
“While journalists could conceivably be subject to criminal charges for trespassing in some situations, this incident is not one of them. The reporter was lawfully present at a press conference called by the Governor of the state. His conduct was consistent with the purpose of the event and his role as a reporter,” Yost said in the release.
Local authorities appeared to follow the National Guard’s example, which led to the incident as tensions were raised after the train derailment disaster in East Palestine, Yost said.
“Regardless of the intent, arresting a journalist reporting at a press conference is a serious matter,” Yost said. “Ohio protects a free press under its constitution, and state officials should remember to exercise a heightened level of restraint in using arrest powers.”
Lambert, who has been off the air since the incident, issued a statement on Twitter thanking Gov. Mike DeWine and Yost for realizing that he was wrongfully arrested.
\u201cI hope these thoughts come out coherently. @NewsNation @NewsNationComms @NXSTMediaGroup @fcasseseYO\u201d
“I am grateful to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Attorney General Dave Yost, the management and legal team at NewsNation and Nexstar Media Group, and anyone else who worked to secure my release and the eventual dismissal of my charges, which, to be clear, should never have been filed in the first place,” he wrote.
Lambert, who is Black and gay, added: “I’m still processing what was a traumatic event for me, in the context of a time where we are hyper aware of how frequently some police interactions with people of color can end in much worse circumstances. That is not lost on me.”
The reporter concluded his statement by shining a light on the plight of the people at the center of the story he was covering.
“I also hope what happened to me shines further attention on the people of East Palestine, who rightly have questions about their safety in light of an environmental hazard,” he wrote.
It’s unclear whether Harris will be subject to any disciplinary action over the incident and arrest; however, last week Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder condemned Harris’s actions.
“[T]hat’s not acceptable behavior,” he said. “The secretary of Defense, the Department of Defense absolutely supports — strongly supports — a free and independent press.”