Senators Query FCC Over Manhandling of Reporter After Meeting


John Donnelly, a senior defense writer at CQ Roll Call, said in a statement that he was "manhandled" by FCC security guards, and was physically forced to leave the building after he tried to ask questions of FCC commissioners.

"[The FCC] had a public meeting today, and it had sort of a wave of press conferences after that", Donnelly said, describing the incident in a phone interview.

"I do appreciate their apology, which came only after I confronted them with it", Donnelly 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. "Particularly when we're at our place of business and doing the public's work, it shouldn't surprise us when the press asks us questions".

Donnelly claims that when he approached FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly to ask him a question, two security guards pinned Donnelly against a wall with their backs until the commissioner walked past. Bucher then asked Donnelly to exit the building, with the implication he'd be willing to use force if he didn't oblige, Donnelly said.

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)".

In a Twitter exchange with Donnelly, O'Rielly wrote that he "didn't recognize" Donnelly and didn't witness a physical altercation.

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Donnelly tweeted about the incident Thursday, and an account of the incident was also released by the National Press Club, where Donnelly serves as the chairman of the group's "Press Freedom Team".

"I could not have been less threatening or more polite", Donnelly said in a statement to the NPC. "And they do not seem to be isolated".

FCC officials, including O'Rielly, later apologized to Donnelly. The FCC plans to take public comments for three months before issuing a final decision. "And then - as if I committed a crime - they forced me to leave the building". The guards were reportedly aware that Donnelly was a journalist.

Throughout the FCC meeting, the security guards had shadowed Donnelly as if he were a security threat, he said, even though he continuously displayed his congressional press pass and held a tape recorder and notepad. "Officials who are fielding the questions don't have to answer", he said.

"We apologized to Mr. Donnelly a few times and let him know that the FCC was on heightened alert today based on several threats", the statement said.

"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.