Press freedom is critical to government, Biden says


Associated Press

COLUMBUS

A government can’t function fairly and transparently without freedom of the press or expression, Vice President Joe Biden told an Ohio newspaper trade group Thursday.

Biden did not take questions from the audience of reporters and editors, though he spoke for almost 45 minutes at the Ohio Newspaper Association’s convention in Columbus.

“The American people need the facts — even the inconvenient facts — to be able to judge the wisdom of the actions of their governments,” Biden said. “And you remain the primary vehicle to assure them that they have access to the facts.”

He said journalism continues to be a critical element to democratic balance in the country, despite the industry’s struggles and changing times.

“You’ve been the glue that’s kind of held this process together,” he said. “And you still are.”

It was the Democrat’s second visit to the political bellwether state in less than a month. He was in the Columbus area last month to talk about college affordability.

His trip comes just weeks before the Republican presidential candidates face off in the state’s March 6 primary. The GOP contenders are expected to step up their appearances in Ohio.

Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, campaigned in several Ohio cities this week. Rick Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, is scheduled to visit the state next week to speak to the Ohio Christian Alliance.

President Barack Obama carried the state in 2008, and it is expected to be an important swing state again in November.

Republicans seized on the vice president’s visit as a chance to point out that Ohio voters this past fall approved a largely symbolic amendment to the state constitution snubbing Obama’s federal health-insurance mandates.

“The Obama administration has too many problems to count in Ohio, and that’s exactly why you see Vice President Biden here today,” said Ryan Tronovitch, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee.

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