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More Fireworks In Battle Between Politicians And TV News Crews

(Getty Images/Joe Raedle)
Alaska's Ted Stevens, the longest serving Republican in the U.S. Senate, is angry. And you wouldn't like Ted Stevens when he's angry.

Stevens' target? CNN correspondent Joe Johns, who, according to Roll Call (subscription required), interviewed Stevens somewhere he didn't want to be interviewed: Outside the weekly GOP policy luncheons. "This was not a formal interview request. This was an ambush in the hallway," Courtney Boone, Stevens spokeswoman, told the Capitol Hill newspaper. "He was asked to go on camera and declined."

Stevens is now filing a formal complaint with the Senate Radio/TV Gallery, which oversees broadcast reporters, and the Rules and Administration Committee, which controls media access to the Senate side of the Capitol. He charges that broadcast of the interview was "unethical." Stevens says he didn't know he was being filmed – a charge CNN disputes – for a segment that aired Tuesday night on "Anderson Cooper 360." I watched the segment this morning, and saw no indications one way or the other as to whether or not Stevens was aware he was on camera. The line of questioning, and the segment, concerned why Alaska, which is "flush with money," was nonetheless getting a significant chunk of federal dollars.

There is something of a battle going on between politicians and television crews these days on Capitol Hill – as we discussed on May 8, the Congressional Radio Television Correspondents Association recently requested "the right to set up stakeout cameras in the news-rich Ohio Clock corridor without requesting permission in advance." When that request was denied, the RTCA encouraged its 2,600 staffers to email select Senate staffers to express their displeasure.

Roll Call notes that "one Senate GOP aide said that [the Stevens] incident has ruined the TV journalists' chances of getting more access." The newspaper also points out that Stevens "regularly does [grant permission to be filmed to] reporters before and after the weekly Tuesday lunches, and oftentimes during votes."

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