Scott: Press cameras could capture lawmakers' pin numbers

Scott: Press cameras could capture lawmakers' pin numbers
© Greg Nash

Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottHow much damage? The true cost of the Senate's coronavirus relief bill Senate unanimously passes T coronavirus stimulus package Senate rejects GOP attempt to change unemployment benefits in coronavirus stimulus bill MORE (R-S.C.) said on Tuesday that reporters with television cameras posed potential threats to lawmakers' safety and privacy.

"There are a couple of examples where, number one, folks have been at ATM machines and folks who have been using cameras — I want to keep my PIN private," Scott told reporters. "Number two, if you're tripping over cords if you're walking out, that's a problem."

Scott's comments came after reporters were told that television journalists would need to seek permission from lawmakers, the Senate Rules Committee, the Senate sergeant-at-arms or the Senate Radio and TV Gallery before interviewing senators on camera in the Capitol or the Senate office buildings.

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The decision was reportedly made unilaterally by Senate Rules Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), without consulting the panel's top Democrat, Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharWith VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world Hillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike Democratic Senators urge FTC to prevent coronavirus price gouging MORE (Minn.).

The announcement drew immediate backlash from journalists, as well as some Democratic and Republican lawmakers, who deemed the restriction an attempt to curb press freedom in Congress.

Shelby said in a statement shortly after news of the rule change broke that "no additional restrictions have been put in place by the Rules Committee."

While Scott argued that television news cameras could create safety concerns, he also defended reporters' right to interview lawmakers and have open access in the Capitol.

"I think there's a safety concern that's in there for the member, as well as the press," he said. "But overall, you guys deserve the access necessary to do your job so that the American people are informed."

In a statement issued shortly after Scott's comments to reporters, the senator's office doubled down on his defense of press access, saying he was "not lying awake at night concerned about ATMs."

“The bottom line, as he stated repeatedly throughout the day to multiple reporters, is Senator Scott is fully supportive of open press access so that reporters can do their jobs, and the American people are able to hold their elected officials accountable," Scott's Communication Director Sean Smith said.

"He’s not lying awake at night concerned about ATMs, which would be ridiculous, but rather how to ensure every family across South Carolina and the nation have the opportunity to succeed and achieve the American Dream.” 

Updated at 3:48 p.m.