MSNBC on Etheridge Assault: An 'Ambush Interview,' GOP 'Set Up'

In the 2PM ET hour on MSNBC, anchor Tamron Hall did a news brief on Democratic Congressman Bob Etheridge assaulting two students attempting to ask him a question last week, proclaiming: "...there are some Democrats that are blasting the people allegedly behind this video....some would catagorize that as an ambush interview..." [Audio available here]

Hall played a clip of the video showing the assault and afterwards quoted an written apology from Etheridge. She described how the video "first appeared on Andrew Breitbart's conservative blog BigGovernment.org," remarking that he "was partly responsible for that notorious ACORN video featuring conservative James O'Keefe." Hall made sure to also mention that "O'Keefe pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for entering Senator Mary Landrieu's office under false pretenses." Hall then suspiciously noted about the Etheridge video: "One of these so-called camera men at one point reportedly identified himself as a student, so there's discrepancy over who these individuals really are."

In the 3PM ET hour on MSNBC, anchor Chris Jansing spoke with NBC correspondent Luke Russert about the altercation and explained to viewers: "...in spite of the fact of what we see on camera and his apology, there are Democrats, right Luke, who frankly say they think that we need to look beyond what might seem obvious." Russert replied: "...nobody knows who these, quote, 'students' are" and cited Democratic Party spokesman Brad Woodhouse claiming they were actually Republican Party operatives. He concluded: "So a lot of Democrats are saying wait, hold on, this was a set up. This guy was intentionally put out to do this by the Republican Party."

Russert admitted: "We obviously don't know if that's true or not," but quickly added, "it's quite interesting that we do not know who the folks that actually took this video are, this late in the process. You'd think they'd want some notoriety, especially if they are perpetuating this cause against the Obama agenda."

After noting that Etheridge's  House seat was "fairly safe," Russert made the obvious observation that "...at the end of the day, everyone agrees, it's never a good idea to physically assault somebody who's trying to videotape you, especially in the YouTube age."

Here is a transcript of Hall's June 14 news brief:
2:37PM EST

TAMRON HALL: And North Carolina Representative Bob Etheridge is apologizing for a video that is all over the internet, people are buzzing about it. The video shows him confronted by two camera men as he leaves a fundraiser.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Confrontation on Camera; NC Rep. Apologizes for Confrontation Caught on Video]

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HALL: So in a written statement just a short time ago, the Congressman said, quote, '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've 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 will always work to promote a civil public discourse.'

Meanwhile, though, there are some Democrats that are blasting the people allegedly behind this video. It first appeared on Andrew Breitbart's conservative blog BigGovernment.org.

Breitbart, you might recall, was partly responsible for that notorious ACORN video featuring conservative James O'Keefe, when he dressed as a pimp. After a separate video project, O'Keefe pleaded guilty to misdemeanor for entering Senator Mary Landrieu's office under false pretenses.

One of these so-called camera men at one point reportedly identified himself as a student, so there's discrepancy over who these individuals really are. But for the record, the Congressman has made this an official conversation by releasing this written statement of apology, at least regarding his actions. Not certainly those of the people who, some would catagorize that as an ambush interview, ambushing him.
Here is a transcript of Jansing's later exchange with Russert:
3:15PM EST

CHRIS JANSING: Republicans and Democrats are getting fired up over a new viral video posted today on a right-wing website. It shows Democratic Congressman Bob Etheridge of North Carolina in a sidewalk confrontation with someone who identifies himself as a student.

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JANSING: An edited version of the tape first showed up on websites run by well-known conservative Andrew Breitbart, of the ACORN tape controversy. NBC News's Luke Russert is on Capitol Hill for us. Alright, let's start with the Congressman himself. I know you reached out to his office, what did you hear from them?

LUKE RUSSERT: Yeah, so the Congressman was ready and willing. It had become quite a problem for him politically and he issued an apology saying, quote, '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.' So Congressman Etheridge realizing this has become a very bad political story for him, realizing that he had to get out and make a comment. It took a few hours. This obviously happened last week, it was just put into the public sphere now for the mass media to see. Etheridge realizing that it had been politically damaging, coming out and saying that he regretted it. And quite frankly, just admitting that he really had a bad moment here, I mean, a physical altercation on the street in D.C., Chris.

JANSING: Yeah, and in spite of the fact of what we see on camera and his apology, there are Democrats, right Luke, who frankly say they think that we need to look beyond what might seem obvious.

RUSSSERT: There's a few interesting things here, one is the face of the reported student is blurred out. At this moment, nobody knows who these, quote, 'students' are. The Breitbart folks have said that this video was submitted to them anonymously. Brad Woodhouse, a Democratic spokesman, said this in a memo that was obtained by Politico, quote, 'This was a Republican Party tracking operation. If it wasn't a party tracker or an intern, why is the face blurred and why is the source hidden? You know if it had been a right-wing blog that identified themselves, they'd be booking this person on TV all day.' So a lot of Democrats are saying wait, hold on, this was a set up. This guy was intentionally put out to do this by the Republican Party. We obviously don't know if that's true or not, but it's quite interesting that we do not know who the folks that actually took this video are, this late in the process. You'd think they'd want some notoriety, especially if they are perpetuating this cause against the Obama agenda. So it's going to be interesting to see what happens from here on out. Politically, Bob Etheridge, though, is fairly safe. He won his district with 57% of the vote back in 2008. Obama actually won his district 53% to 47% in North Carolina, in the Raleigh area. So politically, he should not lose his seat from this. However, at the end of the day, everyone agrees, it's never a good idea to physically assault somebody who's trying to videotape you, especially in the YouTube age. Chris.

JANSING: Note to self. Thank you, Luke.

RUSSERT: Yup.
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC