The National Press Club said yesterday that it was barring Black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan from renting its facilities after some reporters who attended a Farrakhan news conference there underwent what the club called "unconscionable searches."
Press Club President Mary Kay Quinlan said the club stipulated beforehand that no body searches would be conducted, and that the club and its staff did not know at the time of the news conference that the searches "were in fact done."
Quinlan said in a statement that Farrakhan's representatives "have been notified that neither he nor anyone acting in his behalf will be allowed to rent National Press Club facilities again."
She said press club officials read a report of searches of women reporters in yesterday's editions of The Washington Times, and then made inquiries of their own among women who attended the conference.
Security has been tight at other public appearances made by Farrakhan here and in other cities. All those entering locations where he was speaking have been required to submit to a search, generally in which Farrakhan's representatives participated.
Farrakhan could not be reached for comment. A spokesman in Washington for the Nation of Islam told the Associated Press that he would have no comment on the press club's action. However, he defended the searches, which he said were not meant to inconvenience people and were designed only as a check for weapons. "We feel in the dangerous environment of today's world that security is a must," he said.
Quinlan said the club hired security officers to use rented metal detectors to carry out its own screening of persons attending the news conference. Quinlan said, however, that some women underwent unauthorized searches after being drawn away from the main corridor. Women journalists reached by the Associated Press said they were searched by women members of Farrakhan's security unit.
Of six women questioned by a club official, Quinlan said, two said they had expected the searches. The others had a negative reaction, she said.