Pressing the Flesh: Democratic Congressman Assaults College Student Outside Pelosi Fundraiser

The amazing videotape below shows an encounter of Rep. Etheridge (D, NC-02) with college students outside a Nancy Pelosi Fundraiser. The students are presumably conservative activists but Etheridge quickly turns physical after the students ask the congressman to confirm that he supports the Obama agenda.

Etheridge insists that he has “a right” to know who the students are. I am not sure of the basis for that particular claim on a public street. What is clear is that he does not have the right to physical restrain a journalist or activist because they asked him a question on the street.

Even if these students were obnoxious, this appears to be a credible case of assault. While there was no serious physical harm, it is neither appropriate nor lawful to use such physical force unless threatened. The congressman is shown claiming that he is acting out of his right to know who these students are. That is not enough of a justification. This is not what is normally meant by pressing the flesh.

Based on the video, there is a basis for a criminal complaint. Celebrities like Sean Penn, Mick Jagger, and Kanye West have faced such charges in shoving matches with photographers.

Watching these videos, we may have been wrong about Democratic leadership telling members to avoid public meetings and unscripted townhall events. We had assumed it was for the protection of the members.

Update: Rep. Etheridge has issued the following statement:

“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.”

For other takes on the story, see Glenn Greenwald and Ben Smith.

49 thoughts on “Pressing the Flesh: Democratic Congressman Assaults College Student Outside Pelosi Fundraiser”

  1. The right wing uses the same tactics now as they did when learning their bullying tactics on the schoolyard: unjustly antagonize and annoy someone until they lose control, then get them in trouble for losing control.

    The perfect strategy for the “blame the victim” approach the regressives take.

  2. I allways said that Jesse Walker would end at the hospital if he tried to ambush me. 😉 I also say that O´Reilly only ambushes women and elderly people precisely because of that.

  3. The “student”, whose face is conveniently washed out, lunged at the man and got his hand grabbed to stop a perceived threat with an object that certainly look like any mike I’ve ever seen a reporter use. In a split second, he reacted best he could, considering the political climate today. Put yourself in his shoes. Watch a similar episode with Jesse Watters, Bill O’Reilly’s guy, who identifies himself first. While I don’t agree with some of the ways he does things, he at least gets that part right, and we see his face.
    This session was a setup by Andrew Breitbart, whose methods include extensive editing so that the result often doesn’t remotely resemble the event.

  4. Mr. Ed,

    I guess we see what we want to see, even when it conflicts with reality.

    If the Congressman felt unsafe, he should have WALKED AWAY immediately, instead of charging the citizen and grabbing his arm AGAINST his will.

    He should be censured for his behavior and charged with assault. Congressman Etheridge is a common criminal and should be accorded the proper respect.

  5. He got blitzed a a town hall meeting. And now it develops that this was a Breitbart ambush. And, it wasn’t a headlock. It was around the back shoulder hold, relly tight, to restrain the hand that held the object we see as a mike, but could have been a weapon at so close a range that it could be impossible to focus on.

  6. Watch the video, period. Etheridge restrained the man’s wrist for over twenty seconds, then tries to add a headlock for good measure. If the goal were to prevent being poked by a microphone, he could have accomplished that by pushing the hand away and then leaving. Etheridge is acting like they came at him with a knife.

    Also, I’m honestly curious, since I wasn’t familiar with Etheridge before this video: what “recent teabagger experiences” of his are you referencing?

  7. Watch the video carefully. The young man poked the mike at the Congressman and was grabbed before he made contact, or maybe as he made contact. I believe the man has every right to avoid being struck, stabbed, poked at, assaulted or otherwise have his space invaded by an unidentified stranger, intentionally or not.
    Put this in the context of his recent teabagger experiences and reprocess.

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