Reporter says he was manhandled by security at FCC when he tried to ask a question

The Federal Communications Commission building, Friday, June 19, 2015, in Washington.

Andrew Harnik / AP

Last Updated May 19, 2017 5:27 PM EDT

Security guards at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)  headquarters in Washington, D.C., manhandled a reporter and forced him to leave for trying to ask FCC commissioners questions Thursday, according to the reporter.

CQ Roll Call senior defense reporter John Donnelly said he was confronted by security guards who weren't in uniform when he tried to ask commissioners questions away from the podium at a press conference, according to the National Press Club. Donnelly, the chairman of the National Press Club's Press Freedom Team, said he displayed his congressional press pass, tape recorder and notepad throughout the event, but security guards shadowed him like he was a threat -- even waiting for him outside the restroom. 

When Donnelly approached FCC Commissioner Michael O'Reilly, two guards pinned him against the wall until the commissioner passed, according to Donnelly. Frederick Bucher, one of the guards, asked Donnelly why he didn't ask his question during the news conference before forcing him to leave to building.

"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."

The National Press Club and other groups rushed to his defense. 

"The FCC and other government buildings are paid for by U.S. tax dollars, and officials who work there are accountable to the public through its representatives in the media," said Barbara Cochran, president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute, in a statement. "The FCC should apologize for this incident and ensure that their guards are trained to respect the right of journalists to cover FCC public events. In other words: hands off reporters!"

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley demanded the FCC to review the incident. 

"The Federal Communications Commission needs to take a hard look at why this happened and make sure it doesn't happen again," Grassley said in a statement.  "As The Washington Post pointed out, it's standard operating procedure for reporters to ask questions of public officials after meetings and news conferences. It happens all day, every day. There's no good reason to put hands on a reporter who's doing his or her job."  

The FCC incident marks the second time this month law enforcement used force against a reporter asking federal officials questions. 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.

The Trump administration has a rocky relationship with the press. President Trump has disparaged the press over its coverage of him since his campaign. In recent months, he reportedly urged now-fired FBI Director James Comey to jail reporters who publish leaks, and Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, caught on a hot mic at a Coast Guard graduation ceremony, jokingly suggested earlier this week that the president could use a saber he received on the press

  • Kathryn Watson

    Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.