Rep. Bob Etheridge, a moderate Democrat from North Carolina who doesn't have a reputation of flying off the handle, apparently did precisely that in an altercation sometime last week that was captured on video and which has since gone viral.
Etheridge is shown walking down a street on Capitol Hill, and you hear a cameraman saying, "Hi Congressman, how are you?" Then there's a break, followed by this question to Etheridge: "Do you fully support the Obama agenda?" Then Etheridge stops, twice asks, "Who are you?," and then grabs the cameraman's wrist. He refuses to let go and continues to ask "who are you?" At one point he seems to be taking a swipe at the cameraman, who identifies himself as "just a student" who is "working on a project." Then he grabs him by the neck. No punches were thrown, and eventually Etheridge lets go.
Today the video has gone up on the Web site of Andrew Breitbart, who released that famous video of ACORN workers seeming to counsel a couple posing as a pimp and prostitute.
It is not clear if this latest video was altered or edited. But from the looks of it, it seems as if Etheridge lost it.
That's certainly the conclusion of NRCC spokesman Jon Thompson, as provided by a CBS News blog:
His conduct is unbecoming of a member of Congress. It's bad enough that he's joined Obama's assault on North Carolina jobs, but his physical assault on a college student goes beyond the pale.
Etheridge apologized late this afternoon in a statement:
I deeply and profoundly regret my reaction, and I apologize to all involved. Throughout my many years of service to the people of North Carolina, I have always tried to treat people from all viewpoints with respect. No matter how intrusive and partisan our politics can become, this does not justify a poor response. I have and I will always work to promote a civil public discourse.