Oscar-nominated director Josh Fox was arrested on Wednesday at a public hearing chaired by Maryland Rep. Andy Harris, a Capitol Police spokeswoman confirmed.
Fox, whose 2010 documentary “Gasland” raised environmental concerns about the natural gas mining process known as fracking, was attempting to film a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment that was focused on the issue.
The hearing, titled “fractured science,” was intended to question the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s finding that the fracking process has likely been responsible for groundwater contamination. In a statement after the hearing, Harris said the EPA finding was based on “junk science.”
A spokesman for Harris, Ryan Nawrocki, said the congressman did not request that the Capitol Police arrest Fox; however, he could not say whether the Maryland Republican asked police to intervene in the first place. A spokesman for the committee, Zachary Kurz, declined to answer the question.
It is not unusual for Capitol Police to remove members of the public from committee rooms, but it is almost always because they are disrupting a hearing. Video posted on the internet of the incident showed Fox calmly conversing with police before the hearing began.
“This is a public hearing,” Fox then said as he was handcuffed and led out of the room. “I’m within my first amendment rights.”
“Mr. Chairman, can we discuss this?” North Carolina Rep. Brad Miller, the ranking Democrat on the committee, can be heard asking Harris.
In a statement, Kurz cited committee rules that require press covering a committee hearing to have a credential – which Fox did not have. However, credentials are rarely checked by police in committee rooms, let alone by lawmakers themselves.
“The individual removed was not accredited,” Kurz said in the statement, “and had refused to turn off his camera upon request by capitol police.”
Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, a Capitol Police spokeswoman, said Fox was charged with unlawful entry and has been released. The hearing took place in the Rayburn House Office Building.