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Reporter Says Guards Manhandled Him After He Tried to Ask Questions At FCC Meeting

Variety logo Variety 5/19/2017 Ted Johnson
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John M. Donnelly, a reporter for CQ Roll Call, said that he was shoved against a wall by two security guards after he tried to ask questions to an FCC commissioner following the open commission meeting on Thursday.

“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,” according to a release sent out by the the National Press Club.

“One of the guards, Frederick Bucher, asked Donnelly why he had not posed his question during the press conference. Then Bucher proceeded to force Donnelly to leave the building entirely under implied threat of force.”

“I could not have been less threatening or more polite,” Donnelly said in a statement. “There is no justification for using force in such a situation.”

Neil Grace, an FCC spokesman, said, “We apologized to Mr. Donnelly more than once and let him know that the FCC was on heightened alert today based on several threats.”

At the meeting, the FCC took the initial steps toward rolling back a key provision of the net neutrality rules, an issue that has in the past triggered demonstrations outside the agency’s headquarters. A number of public interest groups staged another one before the meeting on Thursday.

After the meeting, the FCC chairman and, on occasion, other commissioners hold press conferences with reporters.

According to Donnelly, the security guards were plainclothes security personnel who “shadowed” him “as if he were a security threat.” He said that he was displaying his congressional press pass and held a tape recorder and notepad. He said that they even waited outside the men’s room at one point.

The National Press Club said that another reporter, Todd Shields of Bloomberg, told Donnelly that Bucher had taken his press pass when he was talking to a protester at an FCC meeting in July. The agency apologized and restored his credentials.

O’Rielly tweeted a response to Donnelly on Thursday evening, apologizing for the incident and offering to answer any of his questions.

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