A video of North Carolina Congressman Bob Etheridge assaulting a student in what can only be described as perhaps a moment of intense paranoia was posted on YouTube on Monday. It has gone viral, possibly due to the fact that Jon Stewart on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” featured it in a segment where Congressman Etheridge’s story was the second most disturbing coming out of the Carolinas in recent days. Jon Stewart said he was going to lead with the Congressman assaulting the student story until he ran into the unbelievably ridiculous Alvin Greene senatorial race story in South Carolina (but that truly is another story and testament to our sometimes woefully asinine political system). But the video of Congressman Bob Etheridge grabbing a student’s wrist (holding a microphone) as he attempted to ask Etheridge a question about whether or not he supported President Obama’s “agenda” is a monumental expose of over-reaction and (perhaps) paranoia.
Not only does the Congressman, who was on his way to a Nancy Pelosi fundraiser, grab the young man’s wrist, but he also seemed to snatch or knock a camera phone from the student’s hand. All the while, Congressman Etheridge demands the two students identify themselves. He keeps repeating, “Who are you?” and repeatedly tells them he has a right to know who they are.
And he does have that right. But when they tell him they’re students doing a project, he insists that that means nothing to him, and demands more detailed information.
The student asks to be released and the Congressman complies — after a few seconds. He immediately reaches out and hooks his hand behind the student’s neck and draws him into a side-by-side embrace, still continuing the “Who are you?” mantra.
The second student, who holds the camera for the video, attempts to explain who they are and says, “Sir!” several times — in a “What the hell are you doing?” tone of voice — during the last action. It seems evident that the two students didn’t expect that kind of reaction from their ridiculously simplistic and open-ended question. (Video on page two.)
Etheridge issued a public apology for his “unacceptable” behavior Tuesday, according to CBS News, saying he regretted his actions. “No matter how intrusive and partisan our politics can become, this does not justify a poor response.
Watch the “Congressman Assaults Student on Washington Sidewalk” video from StageRightShow. The original video has received nearly 1.7 million views. Does Congressman Etheridge overreact? Should he have grabbed the student’s wrist? If that act seems somewhat understandable (the students were close and reaching toward him, perhaps making him feel somewhat threatened), what about where he pulls the student toward him, but seems to think better of his actions, releasing the student? Most important: Just what was the Congressman Etheridge thinking? And why was it so important that he get an answer to his question: “Who are you?”