Capitol Officials Call Reporter's Detention "Isolated", Apologize

April 16, 2014

U.S. Capitol officials apologized for the brief detention March 28, 2014, of BNA energy reporter Ari Natter, effectively conceding that such incidents should not occur.

Apologies came from both Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terry Gainer and Capitol Police Chief Kim C. Dine in separate e-mail responses to an April 8 letter of complaint  from the Society of Environmental Journalists.

The incident in question occurred in the hallway of the Russell Senate Office Building as Natter tried to ask a question of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. A Capitol police officer came into physical contact with Natter, and later detained him. A police spokesperson said that Natter had shoved the officer, but eyewitnesses said it was the officer who had shoved Natter. McCarthy did not stop to answer Natter's question, but there is no evidence that she even heard it or was aware of the incident.

Apologies came from both Chief Dine and Sergeant-at-Arms Gainer, who plays a role in overseeing the police.

"Your points are well taken," Gainer wrote in response to SEJ. "All of us are committed to the ideals enumerated in your letter. I really think this is a rather isolated incident ... given the thousands of interactions we have on a weekly basis...."

Chief Dine wrote: "Some of the most important things we do is protect the rights of citizens to express themselves and protect the freedom of the press as we go about our duties protecting and serving the legislative process. Our folks do this on practically a daily basis almost always with skill and tact and diplomacy. As such, we in fact are  committed to the ideals you cite in your letter and we take these roles very seriously. Obviously there are likely times when we can do better. I certainly apologize for this incident and while I too believe that this is a fairly isolated incident given the millions of interactions we have on a yearly basis, I want you to know how seriously we take these issues and how important we believe it is for the USCP and the media to have an healthy relationship on Capitol Hill ...."