Jerame Davis

Holy Crap: Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-NC) flips his cookies, attacks student

Filed By Jerame Davis | June 14, 2010 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: assault, Blue Dog Democrats, Bob Etheridge, Congress, douchebag, North Carolina

The video speaks for itself, just watch:

I don't know if it's the sense of entitlement going to his head or if this guy has always been a total dick, but the idea that he thinks he has a right to touch another person on the street - let alone manhandle someone - is kind of surreal.

Maybe it's because he's a Freemason - you know what the Simpsons had to say about the Masons, don't you? (Video after the jump.)


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That student should file a police report and press charges.

Obviously the "student" had no identification displayed. I think grabbing him was a bit much but I'm not sure how I'd react if some unidentified person accosted me with a mic and camera. I do think I'd like to know who that person was and why he thought he had a right to approach me asking questions.

The student has every right to approach the Congressman (or you) asking questions. See the First Amendment. Doesn't mean you or the Congressman have to answer them. ;-)

The only rights violated in this video were the student's. Not letting the student go when he asked means the Congressman committed a crime.

brodelbrueh | June 14, 2010 5:06 PM

Sure, I would ask someone coming up to me and asking me questions who they were and what it was for, but there is no way I would touch them unless it was to defend myself. It doesn't matter whether the two were students or not and they do not need to ID themselves (as there was no cop around with "reasonable suspicion" of criminal activity). They were simply exercising their rights by not showing ID and not giving specifics to their identities. And someone invoking their 4th Amendment rights does not give anyone else, especially not a Congressperson, the right to grab them by the wrist or neck.
If Etheridge wasn't interested in answering questions, the proper response was to say "no comment" and walk away not to manhandle someone.

I wish we had a camera view that took in thw whole scene. It looked to me like the "student" stuck his hand towards the congressman in a rapid motion that could have been perceived as a threat. I'm not necessarily defending the congressman but the video leaves a lot to imagination and interpretation. I hate to judge something without better evidence. Those who leap to conclusions often are proven wrong by subsequent information.

No, the video does NOT "speak for itself." Does it look bad? Certainly.

But who is this "gotcha" guy, and why, if he is the interviewer with a camera, is he himself on camera? And why are the right-wing blogs blurring his face and reusing to release his name?

And why did he refuse to identify himself? And what happened before his guys started filming? This, my dears, is a frame-up. It's true that Etheridge is a jackass for giving Breitbart and co. just what they wanted, but a filmed clip in the middle of an interaction never speaks for itself.

I'm with Casey on this. First time I saw it, I thought, "Day-um, WTF?" Then, when it was becoming more and more obvious that this was a set-up, I started wondering less about the congressman and more about these "students"... like, were there others we havent seen that were "planted" along the way, just to piss the congressman off -- and then this video, which shows the results of such taunting, is the *only* one we see?

Hmm.

Are you folks REALLY trying to say that this guy deserved to be manhandled because it was a setup? WTF?! Seriously?

I'm flabbergasted that anyone would think this behavior is justified or warranted in any way. Who gives a shit if it was a setup. Politicians are setup all the time - does that mean that have to fall for the bait AND lodge the hook so far in their cheek it will never come out?

The kid was well within his rights to not identify himself, especially to someone who was physically accosting him.

Was the kid douchey? Sure. Was it a setup? Probably. But not a bit of that mattered the moment Etheridge laid his hands on the guy. Not only did he give the kid the YouTube macaque moment he was looking for, he broke the law by detaining the kid when he specifically asked to be let go and said he was being hurt.

Calm down. No one's saying it was justified. But c'mon, if this was a set up and the Congressman had had to deal with a whole gauntlet of these little thugs, I'm not sure I would chastize him all that much. I'd probably do the same thing, actually -- albeit a bit more forcefully -- if someone got in my face with that kind of inane question and then refused to say who he was and where he was from. Just because he's a Congressman doesnt mean he's not allowed to act like a supremely annoyed human being.

Hell, if anything, this kind of reaction was refreshingly direct and honest. How often can you say *that* about a congressman?

I disagree...

It doesn't matter what gauntlet he had to walk or how transparently stupid and setup this whole situation was. He had many choices in how to handle the situation - the one he chose was not only wrong, but bordered on criminal.

These kids were annoying him, sure - but they weren't hurting him. They weren't doing anything other than exercising their rights as citizens. Intent or motive is irrelevant for the simple reason that this guy turned on one of them and used some measure of physical force against one of them.

This guy is a Democrat. I'm a Democrat - this isn't a partisan thing. This is extremely bad behavior by an overly-self-righteous politician. If he doesn't know that he doesn't have the rights he espoused on that video, he has no being making laws in Congress. Period.

>> "He had many choices in how to handle the situation - the one he chose was not only wrong, but bordered on criminal."

Well, in certain circles, when something like this is set up so as to create the possibility of a criminal action, I think the proper term is "sting".

I'm not disagreeing with you: he didnt handle it the best possible way. But at the same time.....

Yeah, I agree. I'm not saying the kid wasn't part of a setup. I'm just saying that, of all people, a sitting congressman should damned well know better than to lay his hands on someone - even worse, someone holding a camera!

Not only was he criminal, he was criminally stupid!

OK Jerame now you are tickling me. I suppose it would be better to be an ex congress-critter running for president with a love baby on the side? I am getting the distinct impression you have not spent much time in North Carolina.

I've spent a little time in North Carolina, but not enough to think everyone in the state would like a jackass like him. I had family who lived in North Carolina for years - they sure wouldn't condone such behavior.

Pam Spaulding, fellow contributor and owner of Pam's House Blend is from NC too - and she's giving the guy hell on her blog too.

So, yeah - even to folks in NC, this is piss poor behavior.

OK. Pam has her own unique perspective on many topics. Obviously since he is up for reelection we will see how this all plays out in November.

Now why do you suppose the clip was edited to obscure the "student's" face? One edit causes me to wonder about what else was manufactured. Write me of as a skeptic.

Don't forget, the end result of sting operations is usually an arrest. Exceptions for severe circumstances aside, assault is assault, provocation or no.

Identification? Accosted? Please. Read your constitution.

Why didn't the congressman simply walk away or say no comment?

Wow. He insists that he has "a right to know who you are." I'm sorry, you may have a right to ask, and a right not to participate if you don't appreciate the circumstances of an interaction, but if I were to physically detain and manhandle random people who approached me on the street until they tell me their names, then the police would be more likely to arrest me for assault than to arrest the person for not telling me their name.

The Congressman has apologized and the kids, rumor is, were sent by Brietbart.

So arrest the dude. If more politicians were arrested on a regular basis our prison and CJ systems wouldn't be so inhumane.

And quite frankly, this is something I have never understood about American politics: you can get away with anything just shy of murder. Defame your opposition in an election? Fair game -- but do that in any other circumstances, and the cops will beat your door down.

In this case, we're looking at possible fraud -- and I'm sure Brietbart will get off without even so much as a nod. You Yanks really do give your politicoes a monthly pass, dont you.

Well I think the congressman did handle it poorly. I certainly wouldn't have reached for the arm to emphasize the question. I would have grabbed a bit lower.

Couple things...

First - defamation is not arrest-able offense in the US. Freedom of speech protects your right to say anything you want - even lies. That doesn't, however, stop civil lawsuits. If you lie, you will certainly be sued and almost certainly lose that suit - but you won't go to jail.

Saying nasty things that are true? Totally 100% legal and fair game. I mean, come on - look at all these hate groups that exist in the US. There is at least one group to defame every sort of person in America. The cops aren't busting down their doors.

Second - Fraud? A ruse, sure...An annoyance, definitely - but fraud? What am I missing here? Dirty tricks don't rise to the level of fraud - particularly not in this case. There'd BE no story if the, supposed, adult hadn't lost his temper and roughed up the guy.

It's not fraud to annoy someone and tape the response. It's also not illegal. If he's being harassed, the Congressman has recourse. He can file charges and have a restraining order put against these people.

He also has the advantage of the bully pulpit. He could easily excoriate his opponent for pulling these dirty tricks. Instead, now he has a YouTube moment that's likely to cost him his seat.

Wake up. This is North Carolina you are talking about. He picked up votes.

I probably have to give you that one...Sadly

Dane B. McFadhen | June 15, 2010 1:29 PM

Now one needs to call a lawyer here (really, get a grip). The Senator was ridiculously suspicious. The student was very polite and thankfully in control.
This video is nothing more than a snippet of working day life. The Senator should, obviously, have been more polite and not manhandled the student.
But put a camera in front of anyone's face and tempers can escalate.

This video is indicative of what we're getting lured into every day, thanks to U-tube - a verbal scuffle.

He should file charges for assalt and unlawful arrest. The senator tried to hit him in the face and arrested him by not letting him go when requested.

So... forgive my curiosity, but...

I gather what everyone's saying is (1) he should be arrested for assault and (2) he deserves it because he's from North Carolina.

Any of you folks ever been to North Carolina? Or are we just hauling out the hoary old stereotype of "well, it's in the South and therefore some backward place that Time forgot"? Maybe you want to come down someday and see it for yourself instead of relying on the quaintly amusing stories told by people who were here five decades ago and still have the slides to prove it.

As for the assault... sorry, but I'm with him. He gave them numerous opportunities to identify themselves, and they never did. Hell, even in the video they blurred their faces out. Maybe you'd do better directing your outrage at some nimrod who sets up these kinds of stings just so he can get an embarrassing video — instead of directing your ire at some guy who's just trying to do his job and gets shanghaied by a couple of clowns. "Oh, we're student," they finally cry when it's clear that they've gotten slightly more than they bargained for -- but they wont say from where... and interestingly enough, we still dont know. This video is all over the place, and no one knows who these two are — isnt that more than a bit suspect right there?

Or is it just easier to blame the congressman for "getting out of line"?

Sorry, folks, but IMHO, you're just being played by whoever's behind this garbage.

Nothing personal, my friend, but if you believe that these kids shenanigans give this guy the right to lay his hands on them in any way, I'm REALLY glad we don't live in the same state. There is no excuse - zero, nada, zilch, none - for his laying hands on those kids. They could've called his grandmother a booze-hounding streetwalker and he still wouldn't have had the right to touch any of them, let alone manhandle them.

No one is being played, Sean - you're just stuck on the kid and blaming the victim here. I wonder, do women who wear short skirts deserve to be sexually assaulted too? Or does your blaming of the victim only extend to young kids annoying politicians?

You're looking at a clip and assuming you know the whole story. Given everything else we've learned (such as it has been) about what started this, you're right: I'm blaming the victims here because they are hardly innocents abroad. Just as you see no reason for the congressman to act like this, I see no reason for their actions either. As far as I'm concerned, this was an engineered set up with one very specific gola in mind, and whoever set this up knew what they were getting into and played not only the congressman but all of us as well to see something that, you know, just might not be true.

>> "Or does your blaming of the victim only extend to young kids annoying politicians?"

Sorry, but that's pretty much beneath comment. I guess it's okay to be ageist? How close are we to "damn kids, get off my lawn"?

If it's beneath comment, then maybe you shouldn't have because it wasn't ageist, it was just descriptive of the situation in which you are blaming the victim. I don't know how old you are and I don't really care because it's utterly irrelevant to the situation.

What is relevant is that you think words by these kids rise to the level of physicality by this politician. He's a sitting Congressman. He's one of 435 people who are supposed to be representing, and thereby modeling good behavior, for the citizens of his district.

It doesn't matter what happened off camera unless these kids were touching the Congressman. Seriously. I think it's pretty obvious they weren't touching him.

They were annoying him, sure, but if I roughed up my child every time she annoyed me, I'd be in jail, Sean.

Nothing else mattered the moment he laid his hands on that kid.

Were the kids misbehaving? Sure - but that doesn't give him the right to shake them around, grab them or otherwise touch them - and that's really all that matters here.

I'm not defending their behavior - they were being jackasses by hounding the Congressman. But he had no right to touch any of them. Cuss them, call them names, tell them off - all of those things would've been appropriate and fair. As soon as it became physical, the Congressman took 100% of the blame onto his shoulders.

And I'll say again, it worries me greatly that you have no problem with a stupid and obviously staged situation turning physical. Condoning physical violence because some people on the street annoyed you is simply wrong and rather shameful.

We've had a pretty heated disagreement, Sean - does this mean that one of us should've hit the other one by now? We've been at this discussion for days - their interaction was only minutes.

I'd really like to know the rest of the story. "who are you" has never been answered. We also don't know if there was only one other person or three or four. We do see the "student" try to stick something in the congressman's face.

On the news about the same day was an article about the FBI files on threats to Ted Kennedy. Do we know if other congress-critters receive threats. The answer is yes. Legitimate reporters typically have ID prominently displayed when they approach a congress-critter. In my opinion these "students" initiated a conflict. Oh my everyone is upset because the congressman grabbed and held the poor boy's hand. And notice how when the congressman turned the "student" to face the camera the whole scene ended quickly. The poor bot did not want his picture taken. Then he and his accomplices blurred out his face in the video. Why didn't they blur out Etheridge's face? Oh I forgot, then there wouldn't be a story.

>> "If it's beneath comment, then maybe you shouldn't have because it wasn't ageist"

It wasnt? Excuse me, but I think you wrote "young kids annoying politicans"? If that's not an age-ist remark, then I'm not sure what would be. You claim it's an "accurate description" -- maybe so, but in context it's also a clearly biased one, saying, in effect, "Who is this old coot that these two can get on his nerves that easy!" Yes, bud, it was an age-ist remark; take responsibility for that, okay?

>> "Were the kids misbehaving? Sure - but that doesn't give him the right to shake them around, grab them or otherwise touch them - and that's really all that matters here."

Well, sorry, but I think we'll just have to agree to disagree. They were in no danger. He wasnt threatening their lives -- how could he, given how ancient he is! He physically pushed them around as they tried to emotionally push him around for the express purpose of getting exactly the reaction you saw. For them to claim "victimhood" is a bit specious, sorry. Further, as the other reply points out: they should have identified themselves. They didnt. Tell me: what do these two have to fear if all this was was just a simple question? You'd think they would be broadcasting their idenities. They havent. Explain that, please.

No, as far as Im concerned, he did the right thing. He knew how far he could go with it because he knew he was on camera, but he definitely showed whoever was really behind this stunt that sometimes it's up to others to take a little responsibility for their own actions as well.

Dropping out of this conversation because we're just repeating the same points over and over. But I'll be curious to see how the thus far untld part of this story unravels. After all, these "kids" would have to file assault charges, right? Hasnt happened yet -- nor will it, I'm betting, because that would let everyone know the real purpose for this little charade.

Um, ageism affects young folks too. And if you haven't noticed, most people in this conversation are calling them "kids" in a dismissive way, bringing up stereotypical images of "troublemakers," and young idiots who don't know what they're doing. It's also worth noting that if they were 35 and being just as annoying, there's a good chance the congressman would have dealt with the situation non-violently.

Or does your blaming of the victim only extend to young kids annoying politicians?

This statement is not even mentioning the politician's age, because it hasn't been a part of this discussion. It's only pointing out that a big part of the way the students are being treated has to do with their age and anti-youth ageist perspectives.

Those of us who are finding fault with the congressman's behavior are pretty clearly upset over one thing: what's on this video is an assault. It's an assault regardless of his age and regardless of where he's from. And barring a physical threat, it's an assault regardless of what happened off camera. The students probably won't press charges because they don't have a lot of power in this situation and, yes, perhaps their inappropriate behavior makes that a lot more difficult for them. But the congressman could also have come forth with the whole story if there was a whole story to come out with. Instead, he has simply apologized -- perhaps because he is aware that criminal charges could be pressed and whatever circumstances occurred off camera do not provide an adequate legal justification.

I could care less if he's an old coot or a hot, stud or even a dowdy woman. It's irrelevant to my point. You can try to spin it as an ageist comment, but that doesn't mean it was, Sean. It clearly wasn't my intent and can barely be construed as such. It's more of a red-herring than anything. If you have a solid argument, you don't need to resort to finger pointing over -isms.

What I am saying is that no one has the right to put their hands on another person in that way, even when they are annoying the piss out of you.

What's more, he should've KNOWN he was being set up and that he couldn't win. Instead, he took the stupidest, most unenlightened route possible beyond, literally, beating the snot of them.

What do their identities matter? You and I both know they were props from the opposing campaign or at least one of his political enemies. It's just plainly obvious. Does it matter what their names are? No, it doesn't. It adds nothing to the story that we don't already know other than we can find out what college the kid goes to and whether or not he's related to someone who might be on the opposing team's campaign.

Again, none of that is relevant now because the Congressman chose to get physical.

It's pretty cut and dry for most folks.

Renee Thomas | June 16, 2010 2:40 PM

How's about with a simple, firm but polite . . . "I'll have no comment for you at this time but please contact my staff to assist you to address your questions"

Simple, civil . . . what's the problem

Tobi, with all due respect the use of the term assault cuts both ways. "At Common Law, an intentional act by one person that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent harmful or offensive contact."

I have said the Congressman handled it poorly IMHO and he has apologized. But, the initial assault was by the "students". I find blame on both sides of this issue and think those who exonerate the "students" are losing sight of who caused this in the first place. How do you feel about the bully in school who taunts the gay boy and receives a punch in the nose?

I'm not familiar with any laws that prosecute individuals for verbal assault. It's only a defense in specific contexts of "fighting words" and there seems no reason to assume that is the case.

While I might support the bullied gay boy who fights back, the law does not. In fact, when I was 14 we had a police officer come into our class and explain that we might land 7 years in jail for doing just that. And while I would support changing that law and might even defend someone who breaks it in certain circumstances, I do believe that our lawmakers should be held to the same standards that they write for the rest of us.

I don't think the students are blameless, but I can't help but imagine that if someone grabbed a congresperson that way, they would be immediately arrested regardless of how annoying and harassing the congresperson had been. And that is a double standard which I detest.