Heard on the Hill

Gohmert Gets Into Beef With Photographer During Sessions Hearing

Photographer says Texas congressman was blocking his view, Gohmert says photographer was breaking the rules

Rep. Louie Gohmert in front of photographer Jim Lo Scalzo’s camera. (Courtesy of Jim Lo Scalzo/ European Pressphoto Agency)

Texas Republican Louie Gohmert got into a beef with a photographer over blocking each other’s view during Tuesday’s confirmation hearing for attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions.

European Pressphoto Agency photographer Jim Lo Scalzo said Gohmert tried to obstruct him when he tried shoot protesters being led out of the hearing.

“It was the first time in 23 years of covering Capitol Hill I’ve ever seen a lawmaker physically prevent photojournalists from making a picture in a public place,” Lo Scalzo said.

[Protesters Escorted Out of Sessions Hearing]

Protesters being removed from the hearing. (Photo courtesy of Jim Lo Scalzo/ European Pressphoto Agency)
Protesters are removed from Tuesday’s hearing by Capitol Police. (Courtesy of Jim Lo Scalzo/ European Pressphoto Agency)

Protesters periodically interrupted the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and Capitol Police led them out of the room. Lo Scalzo and a photographer from The Associated Press moved near the door to get a better view.

A dark spot comes over the lens of the camera. (Photo courtesy of Jim Lo Scalzo/ European Pressphoto Agency)
A shoulder moves into Lo Scalzo’s viewfinder. (Courtesy of Jim Lo Scalzo/ European Pressphoto Agency)

“All of a sudden my lens goes dark and I feel someone inches from me,” Lo Scalzo said. “I looked up because clearly somebody was purposely blocking me and it was Representative Gohmert.”

Asked for his account of what went on between him and the photographer, Gohmert’s office sent a statement to Roll Call saying that Lo Scalzo broke the rules and was blocking his view.

“In order to be allowed into the hearing, press with cameras must agree to stay low. I was on the end of the 1st row with numerous press cameras in front of me. That was fine," Gohmert said in the statement.

“But when during the hearing when a loud protester erupted at the back, that cameraman with one or two others jumped up in front of me, violating the rules and the requirement that allowed them to be there. As a former felony judge, I allowed cameras in my courtroom but banned those who violated the rules and distracted or blocked others.”

Gohmert comes into focus in his lens. (Photo courtesy of Jim Lo Scalzo/ European Pressphoto Agency)
Gohmert blocks Lo Scalzo’s shot of the door. (Courtesy of Jim Lo Scalzo/ European Pressphoto Agency)

Lo Scalzo said he asked Gohmert if he was trying to block him from making a picture and Gohmert responded, “‘Yes, they are not the story, the story is over there,’” indicating the committee and witnesses.

Lo Scalzo said he told Gohmert, “You don’t get to determine how I cover the news.”

Lo Scalzo said the exchange lasted for 10 to 15 seconds.

Gohmert said he had to stand to see around the photographer.

"There were plenty of cameras to capture what was going on, so there was no censorship, but the rule breaking, distracting, view-blocking cameraman was blocking my view requiring me to stand," he said.

"He wasn't determined to get the truth out, he was selfishly disrupting the view he was not allowed to, to try and prevent one of the many other photographers who were not violating rules from having a better picture than him," Gohmert said.

"Were it my courtroom, he would be banned from further entrance at hearings with a camera, until he satisfactorily proved he would not continue to obstruct hearings if allowed in with a camera.”

[Feinstein Recovering After Pacemaker Surgery]

Lo Scalzo worked for 20 more minutes inside of the hearing and as he was leaving, he said he looked over and saw Gohmert “glaring” at him.

“He hissed, ‘You were blocking my view,'” Lo Scalzo said.

 

Lo Scalzo said a Senate Press Photographers’ Gallery staffer told him that Gohmert would be asked about the incident and he is taking up the issue with the Standing Committee.

Requests for comment from Gallery staff was not immediately responded to.

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