Reporter says he was roughed up by security guards at FCC

Amelia Krales

"The Federal Communications Commission needs to take a hard look at why this happened and make sure it doesn't happen again", he said in a statement.

A reporter who covers the Federal Communications Commission says he was physically blocked by two guards from asking questions of FCC officials after a news conference this week and then forced out of the agency's headquarters in Southwest D.C.

Donnelly says he was trying to question FCC Commissioner Mike O'Rielly after O'Rielly left a podium, which is a standard journalistic practice. "O'Rielly witnessed this and continued walking". The security guards then forced Donnelly to leave the building "under implied threat of force". But it wasn't the only incident at the meeting. "It's a Trumpian atmosphere not only with the press but with anybody who has a different view". A reporter was arrested in West Virginia last week after attempting to ask Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price about an Obamacare replacement bill, an arrest strongly condemned by groups like the American Civil Liberties Union.

Ironically, the incident came at a meeting where FCC Chairman Ajit Pai went out of his way to praise the FCC security guards-it is National Police Week.

They said the incident "seems to be a part of a larger pattern of hostility toward the press characteristic of this administration, which underscores our serious concern". At least one comment included a death threat against Pai and his family, and there have been protests outside his house.

An FCC spokesman told The Washington Post in an email: "We apologized to Mr. Donnelly a couple of times and let him know that the FCC was on heightened alert today based on several threats". O'Rielly responded apologetically to tweets from Donnelly about the incident, saying he didn't recognize him in the hallway or see the guards touch him, and that he was "freezing and starving" at the time and was happy to answer Donnelly's questions. O'Rielly tweeted, "I am very sorry this occurred".

Pai, a Republican appointed chairman by Trump, said during the meeting that he was conducting the latest net neutrality proceeding "in a far more transparent way" than the FCC did under Democratic control in 2015. It also did not address Donnelly's claims that the guards shadowed him despite his display of press credentials, a notepad and a recording device. "Reporters can ask questions in any area of a public building that is not marked off as restricted to them". 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.

A pair of Senate Democrats are separately pressing the FCC for answers about the treatment of CQ Roll Call's John M. Donnelly at Thursday's open hearing.

Similarly, the FCC apologized for Bucher's actions and gave back Shields' press badge.

Frederick Bucher could not be reached for comment.

Tristani said FCC commissioners have received threats before but that the treatment of Donnelly on Thursday was "horrendous". "We're public servants", she said.

"I was told they did not know who I was, but it was clear I had a press pass, I had a tape reporter, a notebook and a pencil", Donnelly told CNNMoney.

"I thought they were just doing it to prevent anyone from getting too close to the commissioners, which I would understand as a security measure, " Donnelly told Mic.

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