- Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
- Reporters from multiple news outlets were barred from attending an Environmental Protection Agency summit on chemicals in drinking water on Tuesday.
- An AP reporter was reportedly grabbed by the shoulders and forcibly shoved out of the EPA building by security guards after she asked to speak with the EPA’s public affairs representative.
- After Twitter erupted in response to what the AP and CNN called their “selective” exclusion from the event, the agency said it would open the remainder of the two-day summit to all reporters.
Reporters for the Associated Press, CNN, and E&E, an energy and environmental news publication, were reportedly barred from attending a Tuesday Environmental Protection Agency summit on dangerous chemicals contaminating drinking water.
An AP reporter was grabbed by the shoulders and forcibly shoved out of the EPA building in Washington by security guards after she asked to speak with the EPA’s public affairs representative, the AP reported.
The Federal Advisory Committee Act, which governs how meetings like Tuesday’s must be conducted, states that any event used by a federal agency “in the interest of obtaining advice or recommendations” must be open to the public, which includes the press.
A spokesperson for CNN said in a statement that the network and other media outlets were “selectively excluded” from the summit. AP Executive Editor Sally Buzbee also described the outlet’s exclusion from the event as “selective barring,” calling the incident “a direct threat to the public’s right to know about what is happening inside their government.”
NBC’s Hallie Jackson reported that an EPA spokesperson said the AP reporter “was not invited” to the event and that the reporter threatened to write a negative story about the agency if she wasn’t allowed in.
In a statement, the agency said there was “simply an issue of the room reaching capacity.”
“We were able to accommodate 10 reporters, provided a livestream for those we could not accommodate and were unaware of the individual situation that has been reported,” an EPA spokesperson said.
While some reporters were invited or allowed into the summit, they were escorted out after spending about an hour at the two-day summit.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been criticized recently for seeking to delay research into the impacts of the chemicals, and promised at the summit on Tuesday to impose limits on chemical levels in the country’s potable water, calling the issue a “national priority.”
This isn’t the first time a reporter has been forced out of an EPA event under this administration. As Mother Jones’ Rebecca Leber reported, there have been at least two previous incidents in which journalists were either escorted out of Pruitt events or forced to leave by police.
Politico reported Tuesday afternoon that the EPA had “reversed course” and would open the summit to reporters beginning at 1 p.m.
Journalists erupted in outrage on Twitter:
An AP reporter was forcibly removed from a public EPA hearing on contaminated drinking water. Forget your politics — even if you love Scott Pruitt — this is a very dangerous development and can't be accepted without a fight. https://t.co/6MPLCAkVxs
— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) May 22, 2018
just guards on the federal payroll banning coverage of an open meeting to select outlets and then assaulting a reporter in a public building: https://t.co/g8BeH4FVLj
— Edward-Isaac Dovere (@IsaacDovere) May 22, 2018