Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 13, 2016

Capitol ‘Kerfuffle': Reporter Detained for Asking Question

(Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Capitol Police briefly detained a reporter on Friday, after the journalist lodged a question at a high-ranking administration official being escorted through the hallway.

Department spokesperson Shennell Antrobus told CQ Roll Call an officer was pushed by an individual while managing foot traffic outside a forum held by the American Council on Renewable Energy on the third floor of the Russell Senate Office Building.

But the journalist in question, BloombergBNA’s Ari Natter, and another reporter who witnessed the scuffle, have a different account of events.

Natter said in a statement shared with CQ Roll Call that he was trying to ask Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy a question relating to renewable fuels. “She declined to answer, but while this was going on a police officer whose name I did not catch, pushed me away from her,” he said.

CQ Roll Call environmental reporter Randy Leonard also stated that he saw the officer push Natter “with his forearm” as he was walking along with McCarthy, and did not see Natter push the officer.

Natter said he told the officer not to touch him, and went back to covering the event, despite the officer’s instruction to stay in the hall and wait after McCarthy’s exit. The officer tracked the reporter down, according to Natter, and asked him to step outside.

“He asked for my driver’s license and Social Security number,” Natter said. “I asked him why I was being detained and if I was under arrest and he said he was trying to ‘figure that out.’ ” Natter said he was accused of pushing the officer and getting in his way “on purpose,” before the officer “backed off on that.”

Eventually, the officer called for backup, consulted with other police and a supervisor. The situation appeared to be defused and Natter was released.

“We take great pride in working with the media every day,” Antrobus said. “After preliminary investigation it was determined that the act was not intentional. We addressed the issue, resolved the situation and released the individual involved.”

Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance W. Gainer called Natter immediately after hearing about the incident to apologize for the “kerfuffle” and explain that the encounter was not representative of Capitol Police’s standard procedures.

“Now again, maybe the officer in his mind had a perfectly good reason — on first blush it doesn’t seem that way to me,” Gainer told CQ Roll Call, after acknowledging that he didn’t have all the facts about the incident and was still investigating. “I don’t think we should overblow this; 99 percent of the time our relationship [with the press] is good. Sometimes things go sideways; I think that’s what this was.”

Natter also said he is ready to move on and put the incident behind him.

Heather Rothman, chairman of the Executive Committee of Periodical Correspondents, which represents BloombergBNA and other Capitol Hill news organizations, also received an apology from Gainer.

“We are looking into this matter and are concerned,” she said in a statement. “Sergeant at Arms Terry Gainer contacted both me and Ari to apologize for the treatment of Ari and to let us know he is investigating the incident.”

  • HappyG

    So the assault that never occurred by was deemed ‘unintentional’, yet the offending officer faced no discipline? We are now officially a Banana Republic…

    From article above:
    “After preliminary investigation it was determined that the act was not intentional. We addressed the issue, resolved the situation and released the individual involved.”

  • yesIDeeClaire

    As Adam Ferguson noted, “nations [and individuals] stumble upon establishments which are the result of human action but are not the result of human design”.

  • Hutch King

    If we are to preserve liberty from the shackles of pseudo-science and centralized power, we must understand and abide by moral standards that transcend the rule of law.

    • Michael Becker

      That’s exactly what the officer was doing. Protecting the minions of His Moral Highness.

  • DavidKramer

    Pffffft, was the reporter properly credentialed? Cannot have citizens thinking they can go around and act all reporterly, thinking they can have the same rights as registered and licensed reporters.

    Don’t worry, the government is working on legislation determining who and who cannot spread government propaganda. After they implement the new regs those that think they can go around and report facts and truths will get what they deserve!

  • JoeKlip

    Note to the reporter, under the presence of the King, you shall bow to the King’s authority

    This is the Age of Obama after all.

    • mikem42

      Screw you; this has nothing to do with the President.

      • Misanthrope

        So very, very wrong. This has everything to do with His Royal Majesty and his attitude toward the peasants.
        That includes you, by the way.

      • Michael Becker

        Heh. This administration has set the tone for the part of Washington that is armed. Just ask the Fox News reporter or AP.

      • Aranna Vallotton

        You must have missed the excutive order, effectively making it a crime to protest “in the presence of the secret service” Yes Obummer has everything to do with this. He is as “Transparent” as a block of concrete. We the people have the Right to question these so called “elected officials” THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE WORKING FOR US!!

        • mikem42

          Yes Aranna, I did miss that order. Please pass it forward, so we all can see the order, when it was issued, and by whom. We can and should question authority, but if you would get over your obsession with the current president, and check back to the original premise of this story, the POTUS had nothing to do with it. Nuthin!!!

  • Bundle Up

    Without centralized power to coerce, small groups of quacks and academics have no way to force people to chase their ever-shifting mirage of utopian illusions.

  • thewlyno

    since when do police officers ask for your SSN?

  • Bob Parkman

    Ah, SSN that is not supposed to be used for identification…

  • Reginald Pettifogger

    Good thing he was only asking Queen Gina about “renewables” and not about the EPA’s in-house CIA spy, or they would have flown him directly to GITMO.

  • mikem42

    I worry about our future, since many who hold positions of “authority” seem to think they can minimize our rights just because they can. The right of free speech, assembly, freedom to protest and to question our government, these are being trampled more often than anytime in the past. We have “free speech zones” set out for us. I thought the USA was a free speech zone in its entirety. This particular guard needs to be sent home for awhile and retrained before he returns. The apologies are welcome, but more has to be done to see this isn’t repeated.

  • submandave

    In a military action, a target can be subjected to either a hard kill, which eliminates the target completely, or a soft or mission kill, which denies the target its ability to perform or complete its function or mission. Which does this sound like:

    “After preliminary investigation it was determined that the act was not intentional. We addressed the issue, resolved the situation and released the individual involved.” – but the reporter was still prevented from questioning the official at that time and efforts were made to intimidate him to not make that “mistake” again.

  • m141934a

    Disappointed that Gainer did publicized his criticism of the police officer. It’s one thing to apologize, quite another to publicly criticize a unifored officer for doing his job. That could’ve/should’ve been private.

  • profnickd

    One hopes that this officer was fired, but I’m doubting it.

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