What Really Happens in Congressman Assault Video?

Rep. Bob Etheridge does not come off well

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In a video that's tearing up the Internet, Rep. Bob Etheridge, a Democratic Congressman from North Carolina, appears to manhandle and possibly assault two young men who stopped him on the street with a video camera. Etheridge, grabbing one of the men by the wrist, demands "Who are you?" from the men, who refuse to give their names but say they are students working on a "project." The congressman also smacks the camera and briefly grabs one of the men by the neck. It's a strange and upsetting video that raises more questions than it answers. Here's what bloggers are saying.

  • So Much for Public Discourse  Big Government's Mike Flynn predicts, "Expect more of this." He writes, "Let's recap what we saw on this video. A sitting Congressman-a presumed living extension of James Madison and other founding fathers-was asked on a public street whether he supported the President's agenda. His response was to hit away a video camera and assault a student. The age of Pericles this ain't."
  • That's Assault  The Moderate Voice's Jason Arvak fumes, "let's be clear -- this is assault and battery. ... Congressman Etheridge should be arrested for assault and battery. Then he should resign or be expelled from the House. It's that simple."
  • Who Were These 'Students'?  The Washington Post's David Weigel is skeptical. "He's a student! He's working on a project! He has no name! Nothing shady there," he tweets. "Can't we condemn Etheridge AND ask who the heck the 'students' were?"
  • Another James O'Keefe? Citing the conservative guerrilla tactics and the connection to Andrew Breitbart's Big Government website, The American Prospect's Tim Fernholz asks is this is "James O'Keefe 2.0." O'Keefe produced videos to embarrass the community organizing group ACORN, but the videos were late found to be edited and O'Keefe was arrested for breaking into a Senator's office. Liberal blogger Jamil Smith disagrees: "Not sure you can call it James O'Keefe 2.0 ... ACORN did nothing wrong in those videos. Etheridge...well."
  • Be Wary of Editing, 'Ambush Journalism'  Outside the Beltway's Doug Mataconis agrees Etheridge's behavior is "inexcusable" but says to consider the other side. "First of all, it's quite apparent that the video has been edited so we don't necessarily know what happened between the time that the two first met and when the scuffle happened. Second, sticking a camera in somebody's face and demanding they answer a question is hardly a form of reasonable political debate, and perhaps not the best way for a constituent to interact with his or her Congressman. It's no more a form of debate than the Town Hall protesters who showed up for no purpose other than to yell down those they disagreed with last summer. It does appear that Ethridge may have over-reacted, but this was clearly an ambush interview and not some citizen on the street."
  • Lesson on Videotape and Controversy The Washington Post's David Weigel writes, "So who are the students? I don't know. The National Republican Congressional Committee tells me they didn't send them, and 'DCCameraGuy' [who first posted the video] has yet to respond to my e-mail. But without any name or organizational support, just by riling up a member of Congress, the students have created the first conservative meme of the week. They seem to have learned from organizations such as ThinkProgress that any video of a member acting strangely, no matter how grainy, is grist for the Web."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.