A commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission apologized to a reporter for CQ Roll Call after he was allegedly manhandled by a guard and forced to leave the premises of a public FCC meeting.
John M. Donnelly, a well-regarded veteran correspondent, said security guards hassled him as he tried to ask commissioners questions at a public hearing on net neutrality.
“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. They even waited for him outside the men’s room at one point,” the National Press Club said in a news release. “When Donnelly strolled in an unthreatening way toward FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly to pose a question, two guards pinned Donnelly against the wall with the backs of their bodies until O’Rielly had passed. O’Rielly witnessed this and continued walking.”
Donnelly, who also happens to be chair of the National Press Club Press Freedom team, said he was then forced out of the building after being asked why he had not posed his question during the news conference.
O’Rielly apologized to Donnelly on Twitter, saying he didn’t recognize Donnelly in the hallway. “I saw security put themselves between you, me and my staff. I didn’t see anyone put a hand on you. I’m sorry this occurred.”
An spokesperson for the FCC said in an email, “We apologized to Mr. Donnelly more than once and let him know that the FCC was on heightened alert today based on several threats.”
Donnelly said on Twitter that while he appreciates the apologies, he doesn’t buy the security threat.
“There’s no way I could have been mistaken for a threat,” said Donnelly, who was wearing his congressional press badge at the time. “And if their guards are that bad at discriminating threats, then THAT is their biggest security problem.”
Donnelly said he’s most concerned about the FCC providing clear guidance on how to avoid such situations in the future.