NEK-TV host says banning by governor’s office has a ‘chilling effect’ for journalists


BANNED: Gov. Phil Scott’s spokesperson Rebecca Kelley now says that NEK-TV television host Steve Merrill must not be allowed to attend the governor’s press conference because they say his show isn’t serious enough.

NEK-TV host Steve Merrill says his being banned from the governor’s biweekly press briefings will have a “chilling effect” on media in Vermont.

“It’s called the chilling effect. You better be careful what you ask or you are toast,” Merrill told True North in an interview Saturday. “I think it’s because they didn’t like my questions, and I think they were looking for a reason to get rid of me.”

Merrill, the host of the public access NEK-TV program “It’s News to Us,” has been a regular participant in the governor’s press briefings for more than nine months. He’s gained a reputation for asking questions that challenge mainstream narratives on a range of topics.

At the governor’s Feb. 2 press conference, Merrill asked Gov. Phil Scott how the state would decide who is an indigenous person with regard to priority distribution of the coronavirus vaccine. During the question, he referenced the controversy surrounding Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who in 2019 apologized for having claimed falsely she was Native American.

“Do we use the Elizabeth Warren standard with high cheekbones, or did you just take people’s word for it?” Merrill asked the governor.

The crack about Warren prompted Scott spokesperson Rebecca Kelley to tell Merrill he should not call in again.

Merrill, in his defense, said the “high-cheekbone” remark was a direct quote from Warren in 2012, when she used the phrase to describe indigenous people. The incident prompted Kelley to send a letter to NEK-TV station manager Tod Pronto on Feb. 3. In it, she accused Merrill of “perceived racist comments/questions.”

“Considering the long-overdue national reckoning on systemic racism happening in America, and our renewed efforts to address bias in our state and nation, we are compelled to reach out to you,” the letter read.

Merrill said the governor’s office should provide examples of the perceived racism.

“I said if they had any examples they would list them. I mean it’s like now I’ve got the Scarlett Letter — how do you disprove being a racist?” he said, adding that he’s not racist.

“I mentioned this to Scott during the Black Lives Matter thing in the spring, that not all of us are a bunch of red-neck hillbillies. I mean, I grew up next to an army base, I went to school with kids of all colors and creed, I’ve worked in the trades, and the only thing that mattered was that you could do your job,” he said.

In the Feb. 3 email, Kelley indicated that the governor’s office “should not dictate who qualifies as a member of the press when they are representing a news organization, which is why we are seeking the station’s guidance in advance of Friday’s press briefing.”

Kelley also claimed the administration is fair to the press: “Our office firmly believes in the fundamental necessity of a free press, enshrined in our Constitution, and does not believe the government should dictate who qualifies as a member of the press when they are representing a news organization like yours.”

“It’s News to Us” is a news parody and opinion show, not “straight news,” according to Merrill, who often appears dressed up in humorous attire “to catch the channel surfers.” During press conferences, the NEK-TV host attempts to challenge the governor with tough questions.

“I’m just a dumb old machinist, but you know, I’ve got a pretty good BS-detector,” he said.

Merrill recently posed questions concerning the accuracy of the PCR test, the popular coronavirus test used in Vermont and much of the nation despite concerns that it may produce false-positives. “The guy who invented it [Kary Mullis] … said it’s not to be used as a test to diagnose anything,” Merrill said.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of NEK-TV

11 thoughts on “NEK-TV host says banning by governor’s office has a ‘chilling effect’ for journalists

  1. It sounds to me to be a valid question, don’t look now but there are many, many people in this country with varying amounts of Indian blood in them

    • It WAS a valid question. Steve has asked some very tough questions and that is why he got banned. The press should be protesting this vigorously. If they don’t fight this now anyone could be next.

  2. One of the things I was taught by my editors at the Herald of Randolph while working for 28 years as a correspondent and occasional feature writer was the need to separate reporting from commentary.
    The temptation for a reporter to insert ones own views into a story can be, even if you were trained to be a journalist, at times an irresistible temptation. This is why reporters have editors who review the stories before they are published.

    Commentary is relegated to the opinion page in order to make sure there is this important distinction between what is news and fact and what is an interpretation of those facts from a particular point of view.

    Steve Merrill on his show clearly is a commentator not a reporter. If a press conference is for the press, a case can be made that Steve Merrill falls outside the line of what was indented in these very informative bi-weekly updates and question and answer sessions.

    • ” This is why reporters have editors who review the stories before they are published.”
      FACT CHECK: Editors exist ONLY to ensure that the “facts” published are those they wish to promulgate; objectivity and fairness are open to interpretation by the reader.

      It is obvious that the “case maker” has his own pint of view.

  3. The Modern Dictator here isn’t Governor Scott or Dr. Levine. The Modern Dictator doesn’t stand out front, like a Hitler or a Stalin, but is hard to pin down. The Modern Dictator needs no guns and no conventional army. He is everywhere and nowhere, hydra-headed.

    The Modern Dictator is one and the same as the Information Gatekeeper, whose job it is to tell us what to think. Do you want to know about the PCR tests? He’ll tell you. Do you want to know how many died from Covid-19? The Modern Dictator will tell you that it’s been 161,000 in the US, even though a recent peer-reviewed paper tells us that, using methods the CDC used before Covid, the real number is around 10,000. Do you want to know the real story about hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin? Our friend will tell you, and our friend will let thousands die for his misinformation, for reasons that are murky to us. Our friend spouts “data” endlessly, but he really doesn’t care one iota for data, except for its usefulness to him as he picks and chooses what’s “information” and what’s “misinformation.”

    Luckily for the Modern Dictator, he has useful idiots in the form of petty tyrants who regurgitate what the Modern Dictator tells them, and these minions work hard to shield us from anything that this Dictator has determined is misinformation.

  4. If and when you ask a question today, just be ready to be called a “racist ” because if they
    don’t have an answer to your question or don’t like your question well, you’re a racist !!

    This Scott dog & pony show is just that, telling Vermonters what he feels they need to hear
    not what they want to hear ” facts “, the whole thing is a joke.

  5. Oh poor little Scotty Watty… Don’t like questions that he can’t answer. Just like Levine, I remember one time Levine was asked a question and the look he gave was when a deer looks into a car’s headlights. SCARED!! Levine almost peed his panties!! The democrats don’t like to be asked true questions, they hate it, and yes Ole Scotty is a democrat. He claims he’s a Republican but he’s never done anything for the Republican Party except call us terrorists. He calls all his buddies democrats Governors in CA, NY, MI and the rest to find out how to control the citizens in their state. His title should be Gov.Phil Scott (D) of Vermont the puppet. Steve Merrill, thought your question was very good. Too bad you got banned by the old democrat.

  6. Steve we are a subverted state. They are not interested in real reporting, you probably scared the hell out of them for asking a fair and reasonable question with a little humor added in.

    If you look at countries that have state owned media, that is what they are looking for. Most sites won’t even allow you to comment, and those that do, only tow the party line comrade.

    Bob Orleck is over ground zero ……you were asking way too many real questions, way to many questions that would expose some issues they are desperately trying to keep covered.

    You were clearly asked to leave, because you were asking real questions. Doing what reporters are supposed to do. The only person that should be thrown from the room is our Governor, for not allowing freedom of the press. He could have said, next question please.

    And where o where has our VTGOP gone????? Is this representing our constitution? Even remotely?…..he doesn’t meet the bar minimum standards. Steve Merril needs his press pass re instate or we need a new governor. Take your pick.

  7. Please focus in on the last paragraph of the article and does it make you wonder if this had anything to do with him being banned. “Merrill recently posed questions concerning the accuracy of the PCR test, the popular coronavirus test used in Vermont and much of the nation despite concerns that it may produce false-positives. “The guy who invented it [Kary Mullis] … said it’s not to be used as a test to diagnose anything,” Merrill said.”

    There is real science out there to support what he questioned but as with anything that does not fit the left-wing narrative, it is blocked and demeaned. As a pharmacist, I can tell you that what I read in this regard is very credible and the PCR test can be manipulated by the number of amplification cycles that are used to magnify anything it is looking for. When you get to a certain level of that, you get false positives. The question should be what the number of amplification cycles are used. If any reporter gets to ask the Governor or the Commissioner of Health a question on this, ask them the number of amplification cycles that are used when evaluating Vermont tests? If they do not know the answer, ask them to get it.

    For more on this read this link below. This doctor says anything over 17 amplifications will produce false positives. When you get to 35 or 40 amplifications, the false positives outweigh the positives. Anything below 20 amplifications you probably have the disease but above that it becomes very questionable.

    Thanks for asking that Steve. I did not follow it when you did so what was the answer you got?

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