Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) complained in a letter to the FCC Friday that the incident appears to be part of a “pattern of hostility toward the press characteristic of this administration, which underscores our serious concern.” Ending net neutrality and allowing service providers to restrict access to content is a darling of the Trump administration.
CQ Roll Call reporter John Donnelly on Thursday attempted to question FCC commissioner Michael O’Reilly after a press conference when two guards suddenly “pinned” the journalist to the wall until the commissioner had left, according to a statement from the National Press Club.
One of the guards then “proceeded to force Donnelly to leave the building entirely implied threat of force,” said the press club statement.
Donnelly said he “could not have been less threatening or more polite.” He added: “There is no justification for using force in such a situation.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Friday joined the Democratic senators in demanding the FCC explain what happened.
“The Federal Communications Commission needs to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Grassley said in a statement. “It’s standard operating procedure for reporters to ask questions of public officials after meetings and news conferences. It happens all day, every day. There’s no good reason to put hands on a reporter who’s doing his or her job.”
Press club president Barbara Cochran said that the “FCC and other government buildings are paid for by U.S. tax dollars, and officials who work there are accountable to the public through its representatives in the media.”
The FCC has apologized to Donnelly, it said in a statement to The Hill.
“We apologized to Mr. Donnelly more than once, and let him know that the FCC was on heightened alert based on several threats.”
At the meeting where Donnelly was roughed up, the FCC took the initial controversial steps toward rolling back a key provision of the net neutrality rules.
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