America

Democratic Congressman Apologizes For Encounter With Conservative Activist

Earlier this morning, I watched this video on conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart's Big Government website.

In it, a young man who identifies himself as a student approaches Rep. Bob Etheridge, a Democratic congressman from North Carolina.

The man asks Etheridge if he "fully supports the Obama agenda."  (To my mind, that's fair enough.)

Very quickly, the situation escalates.

Etheridge asks the interlocutor and his cameraman to identify themselves. (In my estimation, that's also fair enough.)

When the young man responds with a vague and — in the congressman's estimation, unsatisfactory — answer, Etheridge's surprise and skepticism gives way to anger.

He tries to knock the video camera out of the cameraman's hands.  He grabs the young man by the wrist and neck.

Ultimately, neither question — whether Etheridge supports the president's agenda, or the identity of the young activist — is answered.  (The creator of the video blurs the young man's face beyond recognition.)

On his website, the congressman issued this apology:

I have seen the video posted on several blogs.  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.

UPDATE at 2:54 p.m. ET: John Hawkins, a blogger for Right Wing News, has a statement from Renee Ellmers, who is running against Etheridge in November:

If a teacher or principal treated a student this way it would raise serious questions and he would be suspended. This kind of behavior is equally unacceptable in a Congressman. Bob Etheridge needs to make a full, complete and candid public explanation for this behavior. His describing his behavior as “a poor response” is not adequate. Most important of all, Congressman Etheridge should apologize in person to the two students.

UPDATE at 4:30 p.m. ET: The headline of the video, "Congressman Assaults Student on Washington Sidewalk," was written by Larry O'Connor, "a regular contributor to Big Hollywood, Big Government & Big Journalism."

Several commenters have mentioned an unedited version of the video. O'Connor has uploaded unedited video from two different cameras showing the incident to his YouTube channel.

UPDATE at 5:50 p.m. ET: WRAL, the CBS affiliate in Raleigh, North Carolina, has posted a video of a short news conference Etheridge convened today.  You can watch it here.

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