Senators Want Answers From FCC's Pai On Why Reporter Was 'Manhandled' By Security
May 19, 2017 at 4:17 PM (PT)
The FCC's handling of the controversy over the "manhandling" of a reporter who was trying to ask questions after a press conference (NET NEWS 5/18) has prompted two U.S. Senators to write to FCC Chairman AJIT PAI demanding an explanation.
Sens. TOM UDALL (D-NM) and MAGGIE HASSAN (D-NH) are asking PAI to review the agency's security policies and staff training after reports that CQ ROLL CALL's JOHN M. DONNELLY was shadowed by security guards and ultimately pinned to a wall while Commissioner MICHAEL O'RIELLY walked by, with O'RIELLY witnessing the incident and doing nothing. O'RIELLY has since apologized to DONNELLY and said that he did not see anyone put a hand on the reporter.
The letter from UDALL and HASSAN called the incident a “new low point in a disturbing trend” of the TRUMP administration’s press antagonism. “Given the FCC’s role as the primary authority for communications law and its regulatory role with respect to the media," the Senators wrote, "the FCC should set a sterling example when it comes to supporting the First Amendment and freedom of the press for other government entities here in the United States and around the world. As we discussed at the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s MARCH 8, 2017, oversight hearing, this is particularly important given recent disturbing incidents involving the TRUMP campaign and TRUMP Administration."
“Yesterday’s incident at the FCC is not an isolated one and seems to be a part of a larger pattern of hostility towards the press characteristic of this Administration, which underscores our serious concern. Recent examples... make this most recent incident a new low point in a disturbing trend," the letter added, giving PAI until next FRIDAY (5/26) to respond. 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.
Meanwhile, a statement from the NATIONAL PRESS CLUB co-signed by the RADIO TELEVISION DIGITAL NEWS ASSOCIATION and several other organizations voiced concern about the situation, saying, "We acknowledge that many public figures have legitimate security concerns (in part because of the polarization created or exacerbated by the toxic rhetoric that all too many of them employ). But this should never be used at an excuse to restrain or muzzle credentialed members of the media, or restrict their access to people in power. 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. Such restrictions are anathema to a free press and the public it serves."