The editor of an Alabama news site asked state officials to investigate after a reporter said she was told she couldn't cover an execution because her skirt was too short.
Kelly Ann Scott, editor and vice president of the Alabama Media Group, said in a statement that the reported treatment of journalist Ivana Hrynkiw while covering the execution of Joe James Jr. was “sexist” and “unacceptable.”
“I’m proud to work with Ms. Hrynkiw, who despite treatment that would rattle many of us, continued to report the story with professionalism for our audiences in Alabama,” Scott said.
Scott said she sent a letter to Gov. Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Corrections asking for a public apology and an inquiry into the conduct Thursday of a spokesperson at William C. Holman Correctional Facility.
She also asked for an evaluation of the policy that AL.com reported was behind the move to bar Hrynkiw from covering the event.
In an account of the incident posted on Twitter, Hrynkiw said she’d worn the skirt to prior executions and professional events without incident and believed it was “more than appropriate.”
After being told she couldn’t witness James’ execution because the skirt was too short, she tried to pull it down to make it longer — “but was told it was still not appropriate,” she wrote.
“Luckily, a very kind photographer from a Birmingham TV station offered me his rain gear — waterproof, Columbia PFG style fisherman's wader pants," she said on Twitter.
The spokesperson "deemed this an appropriate swap," but then told Hrynkiw her open-toe heels were also "too revealing and I needed to change my shoes," the journalist said.
So Hrynkiw said she swapped her heels for a pair of tennis shoes she had in her car.
"Despite wearing a pair of waders from a man I have never met and casual tennis shoes, I continued to do my job," she said. "This was an uncomfortable situation, and I felt embarrassed to have my body and mysterious clothes questioned in front of a room of people I mostly had never met."
"I sat down, tried to stop blushing and did my work," she said. "As women often have to do."
In an email to NBC News Monday, Hrynkiw said the execution “shouldn’t have been about my knees or toes.”
“This should have been an evening about the victim’s family, Joe Nathan James Jr., and the state’s method of execution,” she said.
The governor's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did the Alabama Department of Corrections.
AL.com reported Friday that the department spokeswoman said she was enforcing a visitation dress code policy at the request of a new warden.
Scott said Hrynkiw was given a copy of the dress code, which she said “singled out women” and included a skirt length provision but did not mention shoes.
In a statement to the news outlet, the department spokeswoman said the policy applies to all visitors, including reporters covering executions.
The department will "remind all members of the media about this dress code before any media event," the statement said, according to AL.com. "We apologize for any confusion or inconvenience this regulation may have caused."