Congressional Correspondents’ Letter to Leaders Schumer and McConnell regarding situation around LBJ room

Congressional Correspondents’ Letter to Leaders Schumer and McConnell regarding situation around LBJ room

The RTCA Executive Committee executive committee joined the Standing Committee of Correspondents & Periodical Press Gallery to send a letter to Senate leaders to address the situation on Wednesday, March 20th, around the LBJ room. We remain committed to fighting for press access throughout the Capitol. We will keep you updated on our a response to our letter.

(Sent via email to Chiefs of Staff on Friday, March 22nd, 2024)

Dear Leader Schumer and Leader McConnell,
We’re writing on behalf of the Radio and Television Correspondents Association Executive Committee, the Standing Committee of Correspondents and the Periodical Press Gallery to express concern from our credentialed members over the unexpected limits placed on journalists’ coverage of a recent Republican Members’ lunch.

On Wednesday, March 20th, staff from the Sergeant at Arms office and the Capitol Police prohibited our members from reporting in the area around the LBJ Room where the lunch was taking place, moving them back beyond the bank of six elevators into the hallway by the Ben Franklin statue. This is a significant departure from our normal access and was instituted without explanation or warning. We understand that the contents of the meeting were sensitive given the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was addressing the GOP members, but pushing working journalists two hallways removed from the room was excessive and unnecessary. The briefing with Netanyahu was remote, so the security risk associated with the lunch was no different from what it would be on any other day when the Senate is in session. The limitations on our access created a traffic jam in the Senate stairwell and limited the ability of our members to do their jobs.

It is not clear to our organizations how a decision like this was made, so we are writing to you in your capacity as Senate Leaders in the hopes that you can address the situation and help us to prevent this from happening again. You both have consistently been a champion for press access and freedom of speech and we would hope correcting this misunderstanding would fall under that banner.

We are very concerned that unilateral decisions like this could lead to further restrictions on press access in the future without our input. It is our aim to make sure that decisions like these are not made without feedback from stakeholders like the journalists we represent.

Our organizations understand the need for privacy for senators and issues around security at certain times. Our galleries go to great lengths to work with the Sergeant at Arms and Capitol Police to satisfy those concerns while balancing our access on a regular basis. We are always willing to accommodate those needs when given the appropriate amount of transparency and time to prepare for them.

We welcome the opportunity to meet with your staff or staff from any of the corresponding departments to help prevent this from happening in the future.

Sincerely,

Ryan Nobles, NBC News, Chair, Radio Television Correspondents’ Association of Captiol Hill

Katherine Tully-McManus, Politico, Chair, Periodical Press Gallery

Jennifer Shutt, States Newsroom, Co-Chair, Standing Committee of Correspondents

Farnoush Amiri, Associated Press, Co-Chair, Standing Committee of Correspondents

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