Udall, Hassan Push FCC’s Pai on Alleged Ill-Treatment of Reporter

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Two Senate Democrats are pressing Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai over an alleged altercation between agency security and a reporter at FCC headquarters.

FCC security guards allegedly pinned CQ Roll Call reporter John Donnelly against a wall and then forced him out of the building after the agency’s May 18 meeting. Donnelly was trying to ask Pai and fellow Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly questions, according to a National Press Club statement. Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) called the alleged incident “very disturbing” in a May 19 letter to Pai.

The lawmakers asked the FCC chief to respond by May 26 with a description of what happened between FCC security and Donnelly, a description of the agency’s security policies, and an assurance that FCC security won’t physically restrain reporters in the future. They also want him to review FCC security policies and, within 60 days, submit a report on that review and any changes he plans to make to the Senate Appropriations and Commerce, Science and Transportation committees.

Udall and Hassan tied the alleged incident to “a larger pattern of hostility towards the press” under the Trump administration. They closed their letter with a rundown of other moments of tension between the Trump campaign and administration and reporters, including President Trump calling press outlets the “enemy of the people.”

FCC spokesman Mark Wigfield didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter and alleged incident. Commissioner Michael O’Rielly took to Twitter to discuss it late May 18. He said he “didn’t see anyone put a hand on” Donnelly but apologized all the same and suggested he may not have noticed an altercation because he was “freezing and starving.”