U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

FCC security guards pin reporter against wall as he tries to ask FCC commissioner a question

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 18, 2017


Was the journalist targeted?

Denial of Access

Government agency or public official involved
Type of denial
REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

The FCC meeting room is seen empty following a security threat ahead of the vote on the repeal of so called net neutrality rules, on December 14, 2017.

— REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
May 18, 2017

CQ Roll Call reporter John Donnelly was forcibly removed from the Federal Communications Commission headquarters on May 18, 2017, after trying to ask FCC commissioner Michael O’Rielly a question as he was leaving a scheduled press conference. 

Donnelly, who is also the chair of the National Press Club’s Press Freedom Committee, told the NPC that two of O’Rielly’s security guards pinned him up against a wall as O’Rielly walked past him and he attempted to ask the commissioner a question. Once O’Rielly had passed, one of the security guards asked Donnelly why he had not asked a question during the press conference and then forcibly escorted him from the building.

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

The FCC later apologized for its treatment of Donnelly.

“We apologized to Mr. Donnelly more than once and let him know that the FCC was on heightened alert today based on several threats,” an FCC spokesperson said in a statement sent to Politico.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].