The Missouri Times was removed from the Missouri Capitol News Association on Monday and may lose its office in the Statehouse after its owner and publisher gave $50,000 to a lawyer representing the ex-husband of the woman with whom Gov. Eric Greitens had an affair.
Members of the organization voted 7-0 to expel the newspaper. Two members abstained from the vote and three were absent. The Missouri Capitol News Association represents journalists covering state government.
"Two of the basic standards of journalism require non-participation in the stories covered by a journalist and full, immediate disclosure when there is even the appearance of a conflict of interest," the motion to expel the newspaper says. "The publisher/reporter violated those standards."
The decision to expel the newspaper came after its publisher, Scott Faughn, paid $50,000 to Al Watkins, the lawyer representing the ex-husband of the woman at the center of allegations against the Missouri governor of blackmail and abuse. Watkins received another $50,000 from an unidentified source known only as Skyler.
Initially, Faughn said the payment to Watkins was a $50,000 retainer in connection to research he was doing for a book about Missouri's 2016 election. More recently, he has claimed he used the $50,000 to buy tapes that Watkins' client had recorded of his ex-wife speaking about her affair with the governor.
Greitens has acknowledged the affair but denies allegations of abuse and an accusation that he bound the woman, took a partially nude photo of her and threatened to release it to silence her about the affair. He faces trial this week on a felony charge of invasion of privacy.
No one representing the Missouri Times was at the meeting. Faughn asked in an email before the meeting that it be moved because of the "hectic" time of year. The Missouri General Assembly's regular session ends Friday at 6 p.m.
Faughn has claimed that he is not a journalist and that nothing used by the company he owns to write his book was printed in the newspaper.
"It does appear that a couple individuals seek any opportunity to attack me, and in this case are seeking to punish the hard-working journalists that work at the Missouri Times to do so," Faughn said.
After the vote, he said on Twitter: "Im disappointed not only in the result of the mainstream medias decision but even more by their decision to have a meeting without complying with the Sunshine Law. Im not a journalist but as a reader of journalism this is one of the greatest examples of media hypocrisy Ive seen."
The Missouri Senate will be notified of the Missouri Times' removal from the press association. Senate administration will ultimately decide whether the reporters who work for the Missouri Times will be allowed to retain their Capitol office space.
The press association recommended Monday that any decision on the future of the newspaper's office should be put off until after the end of the upcoming special session, which will conclude by June 17.
Voting to expel The Missouri Times were The Star, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Missouri Digital News, the Jefferson City News Tribune, the Springfield News-Leader, the Columbia Daily Tribune and the Missouri School of Journalism. St. Louis Public Radio and Missourinet abstained. The Associated Press, KRCG-TV and The Missouri Times did not attend the meeting.