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FCC security manhandles a Washington reporter trying to ask a question

20 May 2017

The reporter, John M. Donnelly of CQ Roll Call said he angered plain clothes security staffers when he attempted to question commissioners before the officials went to the podium at a press conference Thursday, according to a statement from the National Press Club (NPC).

"They had been kind of shadowing me all day, which was weird", he said.

Afterward, Donnelly said that one of the guards followed him to the bathroom and one of them, Frederick Bucher, asked Donnelly why he didn't ask his question during a press conference. I wanted to ask questions one-on-one. The letter asks that PAI include, at a minimum, a detailed description of the incident, an explanation of "any inappropriate physical contact, aggression, or threats" against DONNELLY, an explanation of any potential misconduct or wrongdoing by the security force, a description of FCC security policies for public events, including but not limited to speaking events featuring an FCC Commissioner; and assurance that such an incident won't happen again. "But then it became apparent that they were singling me out as if I were someone who was some sort of trouble".

"Hands off reporters!" National Press Club President Barbara Cochran said.

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Donnelly said he was stopped long enough to allow O'Rielly to walk away.

"Donnelly was doing his job and doing it with his characteristic civility", Ballou said in his organization's statement.

"He didn't say anything - he just looked at me, and then he looked at them, and it seemed like he was perfectly fine with what was going on", he said.

The "hearing" was the FCC's public meeting at which O'Rielly and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai voted to launch the rollback of Title II, a move that has inflamed net neutrality activists and helped generate more than 2 million comments to the FCC.

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"We apologized to Mr. Donnelly a few times and let him know that the FCC was on heightened alert [that day] based on several threats", spokesperson Brian Hart said in a statement.

In a statement to Recode's Tony Romm, the FCC said it apologized to Donnelly for the incident. "As The Washington Post pointed out, it's standard operating procedure for reporters to ask questions of public officials after meetings and news conferences". In recent months, he reportedly urged now-fired FBI Director James Comey to jail reporters who publish leaks, and Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, caught on a hot mic at a Coast Guard graduation ceremony, jokingly suggested earlier this week that the president could use a saber he received on the press. The First Amendment is not limited to official press conferences, and public officials may not use law enforcement to shield themselves from tough questions in public places.

"I'm anxious for the next reporter who makes the ill-fated decision to - God forbid - ask a question of a public official in a public space", he said.

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FCC security manhandles a Washington reporter trying to ask a question