The incident allegedly took place when the journalist tried to ask questions after last month's net neutrality vote. The chairman said the FCC's investigation into the incident revealed no "malicious intent" on the part of security guards, but Pai promised changes to prevent similar confrontations in the future.
While Pai acknowledged that FCC security made some mistakes in the incident, he told senators that interviews with the security guards and witnesses did not corroborate all of the allegations made by CQ Roll Call reporter John Donnelly. Donnelly is chairman of the National Press Club's Press Freedom Team and president of the Military Reporters & Editors Association.
No video cameras are in the hallway outside the commission meeting room where the incident occurred, Pai wrote. Before the incident, "one of the Commission's security officers saw Mr. Donnelly attempting to enter a restricted area of the building, notwithstanding a sign clearly indicating that the area was not open to visitors." The officer asked Donnelly to return to the public area, Pai's letter said. Pai also called the physical contact with Donnelly inadvertent.
The physical contact was an accident, Pai told senators:
"One security officer was standing between Mr. Donnelly and Commissioner O'Rielly and was facing Mr. Donnelly. This security officer explained to Mr. Donnelly that Commissioner O'Rielly did not wish to answer questions outside of his press conference, and there was no physical contact between this security officer and Mr. Donnelly. A second security officer was between Mr. Donnelly and Commissioner O’Rielly but had his back to Mr. Donnelly.
When Commissioner O’Rielly passed by, this security officer stepped back and backed into Mr. Donnelly. This physical contact was inadvertent. Nevertheless, it should not have occurred, the Commission has apologized [to Donnelly] for it, and, as noted herein, we are taking corrective action."