Senate Aides Challenge CBS Correspondent's Claim About 'Tips to Avoid Reporters'

January 16, 2020

CBS News reporters on Thursday suggested that flashcards distributed to U.S. senators with phrases to use when seeking assistance from Capitol Police were tips on how to avoid reporters.

CBS correspondent Ed O'Keefe and other members of the media took offense to the safety tips, posting pictures of the flashcard on Twitter. O'Keefe claimed the phrases were "tips to avoid reporters" without offering evidence that this was their intended purpose. Republican aides immediately pushed back on the suggestion, saying these sorts of cards are routinely distributed to members ahead of events where significant protest is expected.

Some of the phrases included: "Please move out of my way," "You are preventing me from doing my job," and "Please excuse me, I need to get to a hearing/meeting."

O'Keefe followed up by tweeting that CBS was waiting to hear back from U.S. Capitol Police and the Senate Office of the Sergeant at Arms for a comment on the flashcards. CBS reporter Melissa Quinn also reported the flashcards were meant to help senators avoid reporters. On CBS News's website, the outlet described the flashcards as "tips to help them avoid the press."

Two Republican aides pushed back against O'Keefe's initial tweet about the flashcards targeting reporters. Sen. Mitt Romney's (R., Utah) communications director, Liz Johnson, tweeted everyone needs to "take a breath," adding that the flashcards are a "longstanding" practice for "safely de-escalating confrontations with *protesters*."

Matt Whitlock, a former top aide to retired Utah senator Orrin Hatch, also pushed back against O'Keefe, saying, "These are normally intended to be kept secret because the words act as code to [U.S. Capitol Police] so I’ll be curious if they comment."

O'Keefe included Johnson and Whitlock's tweets in his tweet thread about the flashcards.

Neither O'Keefe nor Capitol Police responded to requests for comment.