In an about-face from Tuesday morning, managers of the Tucson hotel where former White House adviser Steve Bannon will speak at a Nov. 18 awards ceremony have lifted a ban on news media, according to the foundation holding the ceremony.
The Brian Terry Foundation issued a news release Tuesday morning saying managers of the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort and Spa would not allow news media to cover the foundation's awards ceremony. The reason for the "highly unusual move," according to the foundation, was a negative reaction from some members of the Tucson community to Bannon, head of Breitbart News Network, being invited to speak at the ceremony.
A spokesman for Starr Pass could not be reached for comment Tuesday morning.
The ban was lifted Tuesday afternoon, according to a statement from the foundation Tuesday afternoon.
After hotel management started receiving negative comments, a hotel official "suddenly contacted" the event organizers and said news media would not be allowed on the property to cover the event, according to the statement. The decision was reversed and news media will be permitted to cover the event.
"We are pleased Marriott has decided to change its decision and allow media coverage," Robert Heyer, who is Brian Terry’s cousin and chairman of the foundation, said in the statement. "Brian served and died for his country and a key principle of this nation is a free press. The foundation welcomes this change that permits media coverage.”
The foundation is named for a Border Patrol agent who was shot and killed in 2010 during a shootout with armed robbers who were trying to steal marijuana loads near Rio Rico.
“The evening is about honoring my brother for laying down his life while protecting our nation and its borders," Terry's sister Kelly Terry-Willis said in the news release Tuesday morning. "I’m incredibly dismayed that a long standing American company like Marriott would attempt to minimize Brian’s sacrifice and the charity that bears his name."
The foundation's one major national fundraising initiative each year "benefits immensely from the public awareness generated by the event," she said.
"Unfortunately, Marriott’s self-serving goal of avoiding what they consider bad publicity now is affecting the success of our efforts to create a lasting legacy for Brian,” she said.
The awards ceremony honors courageous acts, which the foundation said included Breitbart's coverage of the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal that involved federal agents allowing straw purchases of firearms to drug traffickers. The agents lost track of more than 1,000 of the firearms, including two that were recovered at the scene of Terry's shooting.
The Nov. 18 event is the third time the foundation has held a ceremony at Starr Pass, according to the news release. Previous recipients of the foundation's awards include former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and Cochise County rancher Sue Krentz.
Organizers expect more than 300 people will attend the Nov. 18 event.