Local News

Etheridge: 'I'm sorry' for D.C. street confrontation

Posted June 14, 2010 11:23 a.m. EDT
Updated June 14, 2010 7:33 p.m. EDT

— U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge apologized Monday, following the release of a video on the Web that shows the Democratic lawmaker in a physical confrontation with another man on a Washington D.C. sidewalk.

"I deeply and profoundly regret my reaction, and I apologize to all involved," Etheridge, who represents North Carolina's 2nd District, said in a statement. "Throughout my many years of service to the people of North Carolina, I have always tried to treat people from all viewpoints with respect."

Etheridge – who represents Chatham, Cumberland, Franklin, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Nash, Sampson, Vance and Wake counties – held a news conference Monday afternoon and apologized again.

"I came today to say I’m sorry ... I had a long day. It was at the end of the day," he said. "All of us have bad days, but that’s no excuse."

Etheridge declined to talk about the specifics of the day and told reporters several times that he was "not making excuses." When asked if he has apologized to the young men in the video, Etheridge said he hasn't because he still doesn't know who they are.

The edited video was posted Monday on websites owned by Andrew Breitbart, the conservative Web entrepreneur who also released video of workers for the community organizing group ACORN counseling actors posing as a pimp and prostitute.

Breitbart did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

The video shows Etheridge walking down a street toward two young men with cameras. One man says: "Hi Congressman. How are you? Do you fully support the Obama agenda?"

Etheridge then asks "Who are you?" multiple times as he pushes the camera away and grabs the young man's wrist.

"Tell me who you are," Etheridge continues as the other man with a camera replies, "We're just here for a project, sir."

The young men tell the congressman they are students, but don't identity themselves further. One of the men then asks Etheridge: "Would you please let go of my hand?"

Etheridge eventually lets go of his wrist and grabs the man around the neck and then the shoulder as the other cameraman yells "Sir! Sir! Sir! Please!" Etheridge eventually walks away.

"No matter how intrusive and partisan our politics can become, this does not justify a poor response," Etheridge continued in his statement. "I have and I will always work to promote a civil public discourse."

Renee Elmers, a Republican who is running against Etheridge, said she is concerned about his reaction.

"Coming out and saying that this was just a poor response is really just hitting it just barely. I think there's some more explanation that needs to be made here," she said. "I feel for him. This is a very unfortunate situation. However, I do believe that his further responses may warrant more intervention."

North Carolina GOP leaders said Etheridge's apology was "too little, too late" and that his news conference raised more questions than answers.

"Mr. Etheridge offered no apology, released no statement and in fact acted as though the physical assault never happened until the press became aware of the YouTube video which by now had gone viral,” Mark Otto, second district Republican chairman, said in a news release.

North Carolina State University political science professor Andy Taylor says candidates must be on the guard when a tense political environment and social media combine.

"We've always been titillated as a public by trying to catch public figures off their guard," Taylor said.