Saturday, May 27, 2017

Slow Saturday Special: FCC Fisticuffs

Has nothing to do with net neutrality:

"FCC security guards manhandle reporter, eject him from meeting" by Derek Hawkins The Washington Post  May 19, 2017

WASHINGTON - A veteran Washington reporter says he was manhandled by security guards from the Federal Communications Commission, then forced out of the agency’s headquarters as he tried to ask a commissioner questions at a public meeting on Thursday.

John M. Donnelly, a senior writer at CQ Roll Call, said he was trying to talk with FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly one-on-one after a news conference when two plainclothes guards pinned him against a wall with the backs of their bodies.

Seeking to question officials after news conferences is standard practice for journalists in Washington.

O’Rielly saw the encounter but continued walking, Donnelly said in a statement through the National Press Club, where he heads the Press Freedom Team.

After O’Rielly passed, the statement read, one of the guards asked why Donnelly hadn’t brought up his questions while the commissioner was at the podium. The guard then made him leave the building ‘‘under implied threat of force,’’ it read.

Donnelly said he had approached O’Rielly in an unthreatening way, but the guards treated him as if he had committed a crime.

‘‘I could not have been less threatening or more polite,’’ he said. ‘‘There is no justification for using force in such a situation.’’

O’Rielly responded to Donnelly directly on Twitter Thursday evening, apologizing for the encounter and saying he didn’t notice the guards getting physical with him.

‘‘I saw security put themselves between you, me and my staff. I didn’t see anyone put a hand on you,’’ he said. In another tweet, he said he was ‘‘freezing and starving’’ at the time.

‘‘I appreciate the apology,’’ Donnelly replied. ‘‘But ‘put themselves’ there makes it sound dainty. They pinned me.’’

CQ Roll Call, owned by the Economist Group, publishes a variety of news products focused on policy and politics in Washington. It’s known for carefully-researched, authoritative and unbiased reporting.

Have you seen who sits at the end of the board?

As for their bias....

Donnelly, a well-known specialist in defense and military affairs, serves as president of the Military Reporters and Editors Association. He has previously headed the National Press Club’s Board of Governors and served on the Standing Committee of Correspondents for the U.S. Congress.

Thursday’s meeting involved a discussion of a range of proposed FCC rules, including a proposal to roll back net neutrality regulations adopted during the Obama administration. Several pro-net neutrality groups demonstrated outside the FCC’s headquarters in the morning.

An FCC spokesman told The Washington Post in an email: ‘‘We apologized to Mr. Donnelly more than once and let him know that the FCC was on heightened alert today based on several threats.’’

The incident comes at a time of growing and undisguised hostility toward the press in the upper ranks of government. Since taking office, President Trump has called news organizations the ‘‘enemy of the people,’’ and Stephen K. Bannon, his chief strategist, has described the media as ‘‘the opposition party.’’

What I'm starting to see here is agent provocateur reporters creating incidents in order to gain sympathy. That doesn't mean the pre$$ should be manhandled and shut down; it simply means they are trying to manipulate your emotions for their own advantage.

On Wednesday, when Trump was presented with ceremonial sword at a U.S. Coast Guard commencement ceremony, Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly told him, ‘‘You can use that on the press.’’

My feeling is why waste the time? Instead of getting angry at them, I should be laughing at them. They are loosing their grip on the people and no force in the universe or heaven can stop it.

Just last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price defended the arrest of a reporter who tried to question him about the Republican health care bill in a hallway at the West Virginia state capitol. The reporter, Dan Heyman of Public News Service, was jailed on a charge of willful disruption of state government processes. Price said police ‘‘did what they felt was appropriate.’’

Donnelly said he noticed at Thursday’s FCC meeting that security guards were following him around the building as if he were a security threat, even though he was wearing his press badge and carrying a notebook and recorder. At one point, he said, guards waited for him outside the restroom. 

Maybe that is going to be ISIS's next disguise.

‘‘I thought they were just doing it to prevent anyone from getting too close to the commissioners, which I would understand as a security measure,’’ Donnelly told Mic. ‘‘But then it became apparent that they were singling me out as if I were someone who was some sort of trouble.’’

The National Press Club’s statement identified the guard who ejected Donnelly as Frederick Bucher, head of the FCC’s security operations center.

According to the National Press Club, Bucher took a press badge from Bloomberg reporter Todd Shields last year after Shields spoke with a protester at an FCC meeting.

Jeff Ballou, the National Press Club’s president, condemned the guards’ actions on Thursday.

‘‘Donnelly was doing his job and doing it with his characteristic civility,’’ Ballou said in a statement. ‘‘Reporters can ask questions in any area of a public building that is not marked off as restricted to them. Officials who are fielding the questions don’t have to answer. But it is completely unacceptable to physically restrain a reporter who has done nothing wrong or force him or her to leave a public building as if a crime had been committed.’’ 

Was he charged with anything?

Others came to Donnelly’s defense as well:

Carl Hulse tweeted: Outrageous and offensive. John is an accomplished veteran reporter and knows how to do his job in DC. This and WV arrest are ominous.

Geof Koss tweted: it’s outrageous that a total professional like @johnmdonnelly should be removed under ‘‘implied threat of force’’ for trying to ask a question

Or have a blog shut down for such things?

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RelatedReporter alleges GOP hopeful Greg Gianforte body-slammed him

Maybe he deserved it because sometimes reporters can get real pushy.

"GOP House hopeful Greg Gianforte charged with assault" by Bobby Caina Calvan Associated Press  May 25, 2017

BOZEMAN, Mont. — The Republican candidate in the nationally watched election Thursday for Montana’s sole congressional seat has been charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly grabbing a reporter by the neck and throwing him to the ground.

Voters are deciding in the special election whether Republican Greg Gianforte or Democrat Rob Quist will fill the US House seat left vacant when Ryan Zinke joined President Trump’s Cabinet as secretary of the Interior Department.

Gianforte, who has tried to align himself with Trump, defended himself as the criminal charge was announced Wednesday, saying the reporter was being aggressive and grabbed him by the wrist in their exchange at his campaign office.

Quist has declined to comment on the charge.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is calling for the Republican candidate in Montana’s special House election to apologize after allegedly attacking a reporter and getting charged with assault.

Ryan says ‘‘that’s wrong and should not happen.’’

But Ryan wouldn’t say if Greg Gianforte should be barred from joining the House GOP conference if he wins Thursday’s election. Instead Ryan said, ‘‘I’m gonna let the people of Montana decide who they want as their representative.’’

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi called Gianforte ‘‘a wannabe Trump.’’

‘‘That’s his model, Donald Trump,’’ she said.

It’s not clear how the last-minute curveball will affect the race, which was partly seen as a referendum on Trump’s presidency, in part because more than one-third of the state’s registered voters cast absentee ballots before polls opened Thursday.

Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin made the announcement shortly before midnight Wednesday in a written statement, about six hours after the attack on reporter Ben Jacobs of The Guardian. Gianforte would face a maximum $500 fine or 6 months in jail if convicted.

Gianforte was in a private office preparing for an interview with Fox News when Jacobs came in without permission, campaign spokesman Shane Scanlon said.

Oh yeah?

The Fox News crew watched in astonishment as, after Jacobs pressed him on the GOP health care bill, ‘‘Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him,’’ Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna wrote in an article. She added that Gianforte then began to punch Jacobs.

In an audio recording posted by The Guardian, the reporter asks the congressional candidate about the GOP’s health care bill, which was just evaluated hours earlier by the Congressional Budget Office.

‘‘We’ll talk to you about that later,’’ Gianforte says on the recording, referring Jacobs to a spokesman.

When Jacobs says that there won’t be time, Gianforte says ‘‘Just--’’ and there is a crashing sound. Gianforte yells, ‘‘The last guy who came here did the same thing,’’ and a shaken-sounded Jacobs tells the candidate he just body-slammed him. ‘‘Get the hell out of here,’’ Gianforte says.

The Gianforte campaign Wednesday night released a statement blaming the incident on Jacobs. It contends he ‘‘aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face and began asking badgering questions’’ before being asked to leave.

Gianforte asked Jacobs to lower a phone that was being used as an audio recorder, then tried to grab it, the campaign said in a statement. Jacobs then grabbed Gianforte’s wrist and both fell to the ground, Scanlon said. The 45-second recording does not contain a request from Gianforte that Jacobs lower his phone. Acuna, the Fox News reporter, wrote that ‘‘at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte.’’

The sheriff’s office said Gianforte has until June 7 to appear in court on the charge.

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As usual, the media is blaming Trump rather than looking inside themselves:

"Media watchers blame hostility toward reporters on Trump" by Tamara Lush Associated Press  May 25, 2017

The case of a Montana congressional candidate accused of body-slamming a reporter is being blamed by some media watchers on a wave of hostility toward journalists that President Trump helped generate.

‘‘It definitely started before Trump, but he definitely exacerbated it,’’ said Kelly McBride, a vice president at the Poynter Institute, a media think tank and training center in St. Petersburg, Fla.

For months, Trump, first as a candidate, now as president, has attacked the media, calling it dishonest, branding it the ‘‘enemy of the people’’ and accusing it of putting out ‘‘fake news.’’

Well, if the $hoe fits....!!!!

During the White House campaign, reporters at Trump rallies were often confined to a penned-in area, vilified by the candidate and subjected to such insults and threats from his supporters that some members of the media feared for their safety. At one rally, a man was photographed in a shirt that read, ‘‘Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required.’’

That is kind of funny in a metaphoric way, but I did notice how the pre$$ totally forgot about the "free speech zones(?)" we have been living under since at least 2004.

The air of menace was heightened by Trump’s talk of wanting to punch or rough up hecklers in the crowd.

Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was arrested during the campaign on battery charges for grabbing a female reporter. A Florida prosecutor later dropped the charge.

On Wednesday, Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate for a House seat in a special election Thursday, was charged in Montana with misdemeanor assault for allegedly grabbing Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs by the neck and slamming him to the ground after Jacobs asked him about the GOP health care bill. Gianforte could be fined up to $500 fine or get six months in jail if convicted.

Gianforte, who has tried to align himself with Trump, said the reporter was being aggressive and grabbed him by the wrist. Jacobs said he never touched Gianforte. And a Fox News reporter who witnessed the incident said Jacobs was not physically aggressive.

‘‘The attack in Montana is only the crudest and most visible expression of the rising hostility toward the media,’’ Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law expert at George Washington University, wrote in an e-mail. ‘‘The chilling fact is that half of the people seeing the Guardian reporter being beaten may actually — if privately — relish the image.’’

Not really. My anti-violence bent is absolute.

Among other recent incidents, all of them reported in May:

The editor of Alaska’s largest newspaper said a state senator slapped one of his reporters when the reporter sought the lawmaker’s opinion on a recently published article.

A Washington-based reporter from CQ Roll Call said he was pinned against the wall by security guards and forced to leave the Federal Communications Commission headquarters after he tried to question an FCC commissioner after a news conference.

A West Virginia journalist was arrested after yelling questions about the opioid epidemic at Health Secretary Tom Price.

‘‘Reporters are subject to abuse all the time. Most of it’s verbal, but it’s not hard to imagine some of that verbal abuse transitioning to physical abuse, especially when you have the president calling journalists scum, bad people, evil people, and ‘enemies of the people,’’’ McBride said.

She said that while the hostility began decades ago ‘‘with talk radio and the rise of Fox News constantly disparaging journalists,’’ Trump has stoked it. McBride said that what set the Montana incident apart was its ‘‘brazenness.’’

Yeah, has nothing to do with the endless stream of agenda-pushing lies across all issues, or worst of all the lies leading to wars.

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Also seeThe assault on the press in the Trump era

Next thing you know they will be calling us Turkey.

"Democratic divide underscored in Montana" by Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns New York Times  May 27, 2017

BOZEMAN, Mont. — The Democratic defeat in a hard-fought special House election in Montana on Thursday highlighted the practical limitations on liberal opposition to President Trump and exposed a deepening rift between cautious party leaders, who want to pick their shots in battling for control of Congress in 2018, and more militant grass-roots activists who want to fight the Republicans everywhere.

Rob Quist, the Democratic nominee in Montana, staked his campaign on the Republican health care bill, but he still lost by 6 percentage points, even after his Republican opponent for the state’s lone House seat, Greg Gianforte, was charged with assaulting a reporter on the eve of the election.

The margin in this race was relatively small in a state that Trump carried by more than 20 percentage points last year. But Quist’s defeat disappointed grass-roots Democrats who financed nearly his entire campaign while the national party declined to spend heavily on what it considered, from the outset, an all-but-lost cause in daunting political territory.

This tension — between party leaders who will not compete for seats they think they cannot win and an energized base loath to concede any contests to Republicans — risks demoralizing activists who keep getting their hopes up. It also points to a painful reality for Democrats: Despite the boiling fury on the left, the resistance toward Trump has yet to translate into a major electoral victory.

And if they can't beat him with record low approval ratings.... !!

In part, this is because the few special elections for Congress have taken place in red-leaning districts, where the near-daily barrage of new controversies involving Trump has not damaged him irreparably and the president is simply not as despised as he is in more liberal areas.

The Montana contest was the second special House election this year in a conservative district where rank-and-file progressives rallied behind their candidate only to see Washington-based Democrats shrink from the fight as Republicans launched ferocious attacks to ensure victory.

Sometimes I think Washington Democrats don't really want to win.

In Kansas last month — in a Wichita-area district that is even more conservative than Montana — national Republican groups stepped in to ensure that another lackluster candidate, Ron Estes, pulled out a win, while the Democratic nominee, James Thompson, waited in vain for his party’s cavalry to ride in.

“If the national Democratic Party would start getting more involved in these races earlier, then maybe we could flip them,” Thompson said in an interview. “It’s frustrating.”

For Republicans, the outcome in Montana, where Gianforte apologized in his victory speech late Thursday to the reporter he had attacked, is likely to calm nerves at least for a while, staving off what the party feared would be a full-blown panic if Gianforte lost on such favorable turf.

Washington-based Republican strategists had grown increasingly pessimistic about the race in recent weeks, bemoaning their candidate’s political deficiencies and predicting a narrow victory.

For Democrats, though, the contest pointed to an increasingly heated disagreement over where the party has a realistic chance to win.  After a special House election in Georgia in which Democrat Jon Ossoff received more than 48 percent of the vote — nearly averting a runoff and demonstrating the extent of voter enthusiasm on the left — Senator Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat who is facing reelection next year, called Representative Ben Ray Luj├ín of New Mexico, chairman of the House Democratic campaign arm, and implored him to consider spending money on Quist in the final weeks of the Montana race, according to two Democratic strategists briefed on the call. Tester also contacted the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, to see if he would carry the same message to the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi of California.

On Friday, Democratic leaders emphasized that Quist had performed better than the party’s past congressional candidates in Montana, apparently benefiting from the enthusiasm of rank-and-file Democrats even as he fell well short of victory. The party’s nominees, they noted, are outpacing their predecessors on fairly forbidding terrain, and Democratic voters are participating at higher rates than Republicans, despite being outnumbered in these districts.

But other Democrats acknowledged that they must work harder to make inroads with voters who live far beyond major cities and their suburbs if they want to pick up seats like the one Gianforte just captured.

While both Trump and key Republican policy proposals, like the American Health Care Act, are broadly unpopular in public polling, the president and his party retain a strong hold over rural America, potentially limiting the map on which Democrats can compete next year.

Have you seen the map?

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Done fighting for today.