Local News

Etheridge staff disputes Mississippi man's claims

Posted June 18, 2010 5:46 p.m. EDT
Updated June 19, 2010 2:41 p.m. EDT

— Representatives of U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, D-Lillington, contradicted the claim of a man who said the Congressman shook him in 1996.

Brandon Leslie, who now lives in Mississippi, said the viral video of Etheridge grabbing a man on a Washington D.C. sidewalk was like “looking in a mirror.”

Leslie was a student at Pinecrest High School in Moore County when Etheridge came to a football game to campaign.

Leslie said he asked Etheridge, then the state Superintendent of Schools, a question about education. When Leslie didn't get a direct answer from Etheridge, Leslie said he kept pressing. In a telephone interview on Friday, Leslie said Etheridge did not react kindly.

“He put his hands on my shoulders. He shook me, not violently, but jerked me and just…I'll never forget it, a tone that was so condescending. He just looked down and said, ‘You need to learn to respect your elders,’” Leslie said.

Leslie, who said he's an attorney now and a Democrat, said he was shocked that Etheridge "flew off the handle" like that in 1996.

Staffers from Etheridge's office tracked down the retired principal of Pinecrest, Ben Greene, who disputed the encounter in a statement.

“I witnessed the event firsthand 14 years ago. The student was in the wrong, and Bob Etheridge acted appropriately at all times,” Greene said.

Greene said he remembered Leslie speaking loudly and Etheridge trying to calm him down.

Leslie’s statements come after a video of Etheridge confronting two self-described college students hit the web. In the video, Etheridge grabs one of their wrists and then grabs one of them around the neck.

Like the Internet video, conservative blog sites are running with Leslie's story. Etheridge said he stands by the principal's version that the student, not Etheridge crossed the line.