FCC Guards 'Manhandle' Reporter Just For Asking Questions At Net Neutrality Vote

from the not-so-free-press dept

The FCC apparently doesn’t want to talk much about its plan to gut meaningful oversight of some of the least competitive companies in any American industry. Last week, we noted that the FCC had voted to begin the process of gutting popular net neutrality protections, ignoring the overwhelming public support for the rules registered at the FCC’s website. This notice of proposed rule making (NPRM) is followed by a 90-day public comment period (you can comment here) ahead of a finalizing vote to kill the consumer protections later this year.

Since the FCC has been getting a few mean tweets over its decision to give consumers the policy equivalent of a giant middle finger, it’s understandable that the agency is a bit on edge. That said, veteran defense beat reporter John Donnelly stated last week that this tension culminated in him being shoved up against the wall by two FCC staffers during their May 18 net neutrality meeting. Donnelly was, he stated, “manhandled” for simply trying to ask the agency a question:

The National Press Club was quick to issue a statement on the incident, saying that the FCC’s security detail had even taken to following the reporter to the restroom for some unspecified reason:

“Donnelly said he ran afoul of plainclothes security personnel at the FCC when he tried to ask commissioners questions when they were not in front of the podium at a scheduled press conference. Throughout the FCC meeting, the security guards had shadowed Donnelly as if he were a security threat, he said, even though he continuously displayed his congressional press pass and held a tape recorder and notepad. They even waited for him outside the men?s room at one point. When Donnelly strolled in an unthreatening way toward FCC Commissioner Michael O?Rielly to pose a question, two guards pinned Donnelly against the wall with the backs of their bodies until O?Rielly had passed. O?Rielly witnessed this and continued walking.”

Again, so it’s clear, this wasn’t even a particularly controversial reporter (not that it should matter), it was a widely respected veteran who has been covering FCC policy for more than a decade. Numerous members of the press were quick to express their disgust at the incident, and GOP Senator Chuck Grassley proclaimed that there was “no good reason to put hands on a reporter who?s doing his or her job.”

This apparently all happened in front of FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly, who took to Twitter to apologize, but to deny that he saw the incident occur:

O’Rielly then proceeded, for some reason, to indicate that he was cold and hungry at the time the event happened:

Clearly the FCC’s majority is a little sensitive, but there’s absolutely zero justification for this kind of behavior. But it does continue to make it clear that, much like its plan to gut meaningful oversight of telecom duopolies, the fake anti-net-neutrality bot comments flooding the agency’s website, or the FCC’s potentially-false DDoS attack claims — there’s more than a few subjects the current FCC doesn’t want to talk too much about right now.

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Comments on “FCC Guards 'Manhandle' Reporter Just For Asking Questions At Net Neutrality Vote”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

John, I am not doubting you one bit. I didn’t see physical touching. I was also freezing and starving. I am very sorry this occurred. — Mike O’Rielly

Given the FCC apparently ‘didn’t see’ the vast majority of comments in support of NN either I wonder if the eyesight of those that work there is bad in general, or just with regards to things they don’t want to see?

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:


There is no mandate from the people to gut Net Neutrality, or any other of the initiatives on Trump’s agenda. Trump lost the popular vote, and winning in the Electoral College does not a mandate bestow.

Continuing to fail to listen will just get the populace’s dander in a flurry. Hopefully a sufficient flurry to do something about things come next election, and I don’t mean the next Presidential election.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

As an independent let me help you with something.

Neither voters of the parties want this. They just keep voting it in due to gross negligence and ignorance. Nasty Party Rhetoric is seriously nasty and a major obstacle to overcome for most voters.

Trump got in, because of Democrat & Republican corruption. Yes there are obviously Trump sycophants, but don’t forget that a lot of people voted for him holding their noses as well. The difference was between Hillary and Trump. Both bad, stupid, and corrupt!

And remember! Every nation gets the government it deserves, a lot of people really hate it when I say it, especially here at TD and now even Obama has said similar as well. I wonder what their response to that is now?

Chuck says:

Re: Re: Re:

An independent, eh? Is it fun being the special snowflake who votes for a candidate who is always, every time, without fail, no question whatsoever, guaranteed not to win, ever ever ever?

Hate party politics all you want. They’re here and they’re not going anywhere. The only time a political party has EVER been dethroned in America is when another, new party took its place, and there’s absolutely no reason to think that’s going to change for at least another century or so.

Voting independent is worse than staying home. Sauce: if even 1% of the 2.1% of the voters who voted for Gary Johnson had voted Clinton, she’d be president now. And if you’re going to tell me she wouldn’t have been just a LITTLE better than Trump, then nevermind, I can’t talk to you.

As to the main point: this is one of those moments if you’re a reporter for NBC or ABC or CBS, isn’t it? You’ve got to decide if you side with your corporate masters and stay quiet (now that Comcast owns you) or if you side with your brothers in arms in the journalism business and do what’s best for both your profession and the nation. The real story here is to watch the reactions of those in the press. If you can’t stand beside Mr. Donnelly here, you don’t deserve to call yourself a reporter.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

If 100% of Americans voted with their conscious neither Hillary or Trump would have been elected.

Choosing to vote on party lines because the independent will ‘never win’ is a waste of vote too. Politicians love people like you, they keep shoving it up your ass and you keep asking for more each time you vote for them.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

if even 1% of the 2.1% of the voters who voted for Gary Johnson had voted Clinton, she’d be president now.

That’s…not really an accurate statement.

First of all, your numbers are wrong. Johnson got 3.3% of the vote, not 2.1%.

Secondly, of the states Trump won, only 5 (plus Nebraska’s second district) were within the Johnson margin: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. If 100% of Johnson’s voters outside those states had voted Clinton instead, it would have had no effect whatsoever on the outcome of the election.

Lastly, you’re assuming a scenario in which half of Johnson’s voters switch to Clinton but the other half don’t switch to Trump. That’s a pretty artificial construct, isn’t it? You’re assuming a situation in which Johnson voters whose second choice is Clinton decide that they’re going to go ahead and vote for a major-party candidate, but that Johnson voters whose second choice is Trump don’t. How does that work?

In practice, polls showed that Libertarian voters were roughly evenly split on who their second choice was. So if every Johnson voter had voted for their second choice instead of Johnson…it wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the election.

Now, once you look at Jill Stein, she’s another story; most of her supporters did prefer Clinton over Trump. So you should probably be looking at her voters, not Johnson’s.

So, narrowing our list of states Trump won to the ones that were within Stein’s vote margin, you get Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin; those were the three closest Trump states, and that’s why we heard so much about them following the election. It is true that, had Stein voters in those three states voted for Clinton instead of Stein, Clinton would have won the electoral college. However, once again, anyone who voted for her outside of those three states made no impact on the outcome of the election.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Voting independent is worse than staying home. Sauce: if even 1% of the 2.1% of the voters who voted for Gary Johnson had voted Clinton, she’d be president now.

What makes you think those votes would have gone for Clinton? And how was voting for Johnson somehow "worse" than staying home (unless you think Johnson would have been worse than Trump)?

Chuck says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

First, you seem to presume that just because I don’t like the two-party system, that means I don’t like either of the parties. I’m a democrat and damn proud of it. There’s like 2 policy positions out of a platform of 40+ ideas that I disagree with. Odds are good there will literally never be a party I agree with more than the Democrats, so no, they’re not shoving anything on or up me.

My problem isn’t the Democrats. My problem isn’t even the Republicans, as much as I loathe nearly every single thing they stand for. My problem is the Independants, as I stated. It’s people who are too idealistic for their own good. Sure, principles are nice, but a president who isn’t a crazy misogynistic racist would be much nicer. The fact that I agree with nearly every principle of one party is just icing on the cake for me. Even people who don’t like the Dems are still living in fantasy land of they believe voting for a third-party candidate has any actual impact.

As to Johnson, let’s put it this way: people who voted for Johnson weren’t libertarians. Half of them couldn’t even define what a libertarian is. They weren’t voting FOR anyone. They were voting AGAINST the two candidates who had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. True, there may have been a small handful of Johnson voters who genuinely liked the guy, or his politics, or both, but the truth is a vote for the last 7-8 Independent presidential candidates has always been a vote against the system, rather than a vote FOR anyone or anything.

Stein, as you point out, pretty much exclusively stole her votes from the Clinton pool. But don’t delude yourself into thinking Johnson wasn’t taking at least 3-to-1 from Clinton too. The simple truth is, in a year where the FBI wasn’t tilting the scales, well over Half of Johnson’s voters would’ve held their nose and voted Clinton, and the remainder?

I’d be shocked if anyone who voted for Johnson could seriously stomach Trump.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

First, you seem to presume that just because I don’t like the two-party system, that means I don’t like either of the parties.

Huh? Who are you talking to? I assume from the Stein comments that you were talking to me, but your reply is to yourself, and I never implied you didn’t have a preference between the two parties. Your comment clearly indicated you were a Democratic partisan. (Not that I’m criticizing; I’m a registered independent but I usually vote Democratic myself.)

But don’t delude yourself into thinking Johnson wasn’t taking at least 3-to-1 from Clinton too.

Delude myself? I’m not the one pulling numbers out of his ass.

Here’s a FiveThirtyEight rundown of Johnson’s affect on the polls; it concludes that Johnson voters’ second choice was split evenly between Clinton and Trump.

Now, you may say, "But Thad, almost all the polls were off." Yes, they were. By about five points. In favor of Clinton. But the polls that didn’t include Johnson didn’t favor Clinton any more than the ones that did.

If you’ve got any evidence of your "Johnson voters preferred Clinton over Trump by a 3-to-1 margin" — that’s a lot, dude — then feel free to share. But I haven’t seen any, and it seems to me that if you had any you’d have led with a source instead of just smug condescension.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Be careful about that, though; while the best ranked-preference systems out there (basically, the Condorcet method) don’t have this problem, the ones most popularly known under the "instant runoff" moniker do not entirely eliminate the perverse-incentive effect which leads to strategic voting.

The problem is one of what is called Arrow’s impossibility theorem, and in particular the monotonicity criterion and independence of irrelevant alternatives (IIA).

The details are in the articles at those links, but basically, it is impossible to design a voting system which does not fail at least one of a set of specified criteria. Every voting system I’ve seen described except for the Condorcet method avoids this problem by sacrificing the criterion known as monotonicity, i.e., that voting for A over B will never increase the odds of B winning; as I understand matters, the Condorcet method instead sacrifices the criterion known as unrestricted domain, in that it can sometimes result in a cyclic loop – in which A defeats B and B defeats C and C defeats A, so that there is no definable winner. (I have ideas in mind of how to avoid such loops in practice with – as far as I can see – no real-world downsides, by sacrificing only the determinism aspect of unrestricted domain when such a loop is encountered, but that would be a separate discussion.)

The methods commonly known as instant-runoff voting, apparently including the one adopted in Maine and just recently struck down as a violation of the state constitution, consist basically of either "drop the candidate who received the most last-place votes" or "drop the candidate who received the fewest first-place votes", repeated until there is only one candidate left.

It’s well known that single-choice first-past-the-post voting violates IIA and/or monotonicity, by way of what is known as the spoiler effect; voting for A means you don’t vote for C, so C’s vote total is reduced, so B has a better chance of winning than if you’d voted for C. While it is harder to construct an example for the "drop most-last-place" or "drop fewest-first-place" instant-runoff systems, such examples do exist; the linked Wikipedia articles for IIA and the monotonicity criterion have some.

As long as it is possible to increase A’s chances by changing the way you rank B (or vice versa), the spoiler effect – and the perverse incentives associated with it – will always exist. This problem is smaller under IRV than under any single-choice voting method that I know of, but it still exists. The only voting system out there that I know of that does not have this problem is the Condorcet method.

William Braunfeld (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Ooookay, I’ve been holding onto this for a while, but this seems as good a place as any to let the rant flow.

You are NOT JUST VOTING for president.
This is the part people do not seem to get.

Bernie Sanders pushed the Democratic party further to the left this election, because he had a surprising amount of support, and the other Democrats needed to shift left to try and get those voters on their side. This is important – even vital! – to the democratic process.

The parties pay attention to who you vote for. They pay attention to what you support. The reason our parties have stagnated this much is that the Presidential race is, essentially, a duopoly right now; and it’s entirely because of this sort of viewpoint, because of strategic voting. If enough people voted for third parties, or voted No Confidence (as I did; trying to write independents off as “special snowflakes” demonstrates far more about you than it does about independents), or otherwise voiced their displeasure, then while we’d still end up with a D or R in office THIS ELECTION, the parties would take note and adjust themselves to fit into the demands of the populace.

Remember: THEY WANT US TO VOTE FOR THEM. No, we can’t change the two-party system for the next election, or the one after, or maybe even the one after; but if we think about the future, about the country in 20 years (five elections down the line), about the country our children will inherit, the country our grandchildren will live in; in short, if we stop saying OH GOD TRUMP/CLINTON WILL RUIN THE COUNTRY and recognize that they get four years and life will continue past that point (presuming nobody starts tossing nukes around like candy), then the REAL strategy should be to try to shift and mold the parties into what WE want them to be; not to limit ourselves to what the PARTIES want US to be.
You say voting independent is worse than staying home.
I say voting the party line is why we’re in this god-damn mess to begin with.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Good point. The Democrats of 2017 are behaving very differently than the Democrats of 2001. In ’01 they bent over backwards to cooperate with Bush at every opportunity; today they’re actually functioning as a united opposition party. Their takeaway from 2000 seemed to be "fuck the base; we need to move farther to the right and peel off Bush votes," whereas their takeaway from 2016 seems to be "you know, maybe we should stop ignoring the base; maybe we’d have won if we’d gone with Bernie."

I mean, kind of. Obviously there’s still an ideological rift between the Democratic establishment and the Sanders/Warren wing of the party; Schumer’s as establishment as it gets, and Perez vs. Ellison seems to have turned into a "let’s repeat the primaries by proxy" race, with the Clinton stand-in winning again. (Though Perez seems mostly all right — pity about the TPP support, but he appears to have a good pro-labor record otherwise –, and he seems to have done a much better job presenting a conciliatory, unified front with Ellison after his victory than Clinton did with Sanders after hers.) But it sure feels like there’s at least some inclination to try and appeal to the liberals who voted Stein or stayed home rather than vote for Clinton.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Even attributing the concept makes little sense. You can find the contours of it even before ancient Greece and Platos implicit mentions since it is a platitude. Maistres thoughts were merely creating a counterculture to enlightenment and a rather incontoversial one in his past.

Calling others snowflakes, spouting fake news and clamouring for a counter-culture person in the most mainstream of positions is certainly not very enlightened. But Trump is an atheist which makes the theory of that type of authoritarian conservatism nonsense.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

So? Again, nobody can defend Trump or his supporters, only whine that his opponent didn’t meet their tastes. That doesn’t let the people who voted for Trump off the hook for doing so, nor does it make any sense of the idea that voting for the representative of the Republican party was somehow a vote against the status quo.

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