Saturday, February 7, 2009

Calderone: Journalist Physically Restrained From Asking Panetta a Question

Michael Calderone of Politico reported on his blog yesterday that CongressDaily reporter Chris Strohm was physically restrained from asking Leon Panetta a question Thursday in the hallway outside room G-50 in the Dirksen Building after the CIA-chief designate's confirmation hearing. Strohm, when reached by phone on Friday by Calderone, said he was unsure of the man’s role.

“I felt this hand grab my right arm and push me aside,” Strohm said.

By his account, Strohm told the man, “Please don’t touch me” more than once. Eventually, the man let him go.

Tim Starks, a reporter for Congressional Quarterly, said he witnessed Strohm approach Panetta and ask a question, just before the man began “grabbing him by the arm and moving him away.”

“I said to the guy, ‘That’s not the way you do it,’” recalled Starks.

Starks said that he’s covered the CIA for years and had never seen a reporter strong-armed that way before, adding that the agency is typically respectful of journalists.

Reflecting on the incident, Strohm played it down somewhat, saying that he’s “had worse happen” while reporting.

A staff assistant at The Panetta Institute said they are not addressing any media inquiries before Panetta’s confirmation. The White House declined to comment.

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