The blood of murdered Kentucky congressman William Taulbee can still be seen in the marble steps to the U.S. House of Representatives – after 112 years.

In 1890, Charles Kincaid, a reporter for the Louisville Times entered the House of Representatives building and confronted retired Congressman Taulbee of the 10th District of Kentucky. Taulbee, a Methodist clergyman, was not armed. But Kincaid – in front of eyewitnesses – drew a pistol and shot Congressman Taulbee in the head.

In having researched this case for many hours in the back issues of the Washington Post and the Washington Star, and having consulted with a House Press Gallery superintendent, I learned there is no known evidence that the Standing Committee of Correspondents ever suspended the credentials of reporter Kincaid – even for killing a congressman.

Instead, the Washington Star strongly supported the reporter, who, it noted, “came from a good family in the Bluegrass – while Congressman Taulbee came from the hills.” Kincaid was acquitted a year later since it was reported that Taulbee had, earlier in the day, grasped Kincaid by the ear and expressed strong displeasure with some of the reporter’s writings in the Louisville Times – because he was falsely accused of adultery.

For having murdered a congressman, reporter Kincaid did not suffer loss of his press credential.

The Standing Committee of Correspondents was created in 1877, because, testified committee chairwoman Cheryl Arvidson of Cox Newspapers:

“Congress was under siege from lobbyists, claims agents and executive branch employees who were using press privileges to gain access to the press galleries and other facilities …”

Arvidson testified on May 10, 1983, after 48 U.S. senators joined in expressed outrage at the fact that this reporter’s committee had denied accreditation to any reporters for the Voice of America “because they were a government agency.” But, to the Soviet Union’s Tass News Agency, they gave full accreditation!

“We have a proud history,” claimed Arvidson – to which Congress, quite incredibly gave the power to give credentials to other reporters, or deny them credentials, or to confiscate their credentials – possibly of rivals – or those from small media they did not respect. All of this was under congressional immunity, which allows them to ignore due process of law.

What is included in this “proud history”?

  • Racial Discrimination:
    In 1947, reporter Lewis Lautier of the daily Atlanta World, and 53 Negro weeklies, successfully appealed to the U.S. Senate Rules Committee this standing Committee of Correspondents’ refusal to give him credentials because: “I can only conclude that the sole reason for the failure or refusal of the Standing Committee of Correspondents to approve my application to the Congressional Press Galleries is that I am colored!”

  • Impersonating A Congressman:
    A reporter for the Detroit News, and later CBS, committed a felony by impersonating a congressman, and obtaining a good seat for the Begin-Sadat treaty signing at the White House. Another (non-journalist) impersonator, of Sen. Warren Magnuson in Washington state, was convicted and sent to McNeil Island Penitentiary. But the reporter was not even reprimanded by the Standing Committee of Correspondents.

  • Burglary:
    A reporter for the Los Angeles Times enlisted an accomplice to impersonate a congressman’s staffer, in order to gain access to that congressman’s office after dark. Here, the reporter stole a news release from the desk of the congressman and broke the embargo by three days. The reporter was caught and summoned to the Office of the U.S. Attorney. But he was subsequently warned, released and only reprimanded – by the Standing Committee of Correspondents. This burglar did not experience loss of his credentials like Lewis Lautier.

In addition to tolerating reporters’ felonies of burglary, impersonating a congressman, and murder – as well as racial discrimination – the committee’s actions evoked national ridicule:

  • Venerable columnist Richard Strout resigned from the press galleries rather than adhere to their ridiculous ruling that he would no longer be able to accept $50 fees for doing broadcasts for the Voice of America.

  • The Standing Committee of Correspondents also made itself internationally ludicrous by charging that both Drew Pearson and Marguerite Higgins had violated the rules, because these renowned journalists had publicly endorsed Crest toothpaste, the allegedly low-nicotine content of a cigarette, Listerine, Adam Hats, Bromo-Seltzer and a line of men’s clothing at a local department store.

Maggie Higgins, the famed Korean War correspondent, laughed and dropped her membership and credentials. Drew Pearson appeared before the committee and confessed that he had endorsed yet another product – an empty container of which he left in the permanent files. It is a good Maryland product: “DREW PEARSON’S NO-BULL COW MANURE.”

Now, the radio-TV gallery’s standing committee has voted to deny credentials to all of America’s 4,200 radio talk-show hosts – including Rush Limbaugh.

The print media standing committee has denied credentials to those who write for 30-million people in 138 nations:

The Periodical Correspondents Gallery denied credentials to the magazine Consumers Union because they had no advertising, but they had a lobbyist for consumers on Capitol Hill (just like fully accredited Time magazine had a lobbyist).

Judge Gerhardt Gesell of the U.S. District Court in Washington summarized the record quite accurately in the case of Consumers Union vs. Periodical Correspondents Gallery:

“Under a broad, generalized congressional delegation, authority has been given to certain newsmen to prevent other newsmen from having access to news of vital consequence to the public.”

“As a result, a group of established periodical correspondents has undertaken to implement arbitrary and unnecessary regulations, with a view to excluding from news sources representatives of those publications whose ownership or ideas they consider objectionable.”

“The situation disclosed by this undisputed record flouts the First Amendment.”

“It matters not that the elements of the press, as well as Congress itself, appeared to have been the instruments for denial of constitutional rights in this instance; for those rights limit the actions of legislative agents and instrumentalities as surely as those of Congress itself.”

These press galleries, which provide Big Media free space, free desks, free telephone service, free copying machines, free answering service and staffs of federal employees to service all these privileged reporters, cost the U.S. taxpayers millions of dollars every year.

That and the long record of unethical activity and unfairness is why taxpayers should ask their senators and members of the House to abolish these reporters committees and their staffs. Credentialing should be done by congressional employees who know – and follow – the U.S. Constitution, and will be fair to all media.

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