Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney appeared on CBS, CNN, and FNC on Wednesday morning to address charges she hit a Capitol Police officer in the chest with her cell phone when he tried to stop her as she tried to walk right past security screeners. Well, actually, she refused in all three interviews to address the basic facts of the fracas. In all three interviews, she forced in her talking points, that the kerfuffle was "much ado about a hairdo" and that 250 black officers sued the Capitol Police for racial discrimination. CNN's Soledad O'Brien was especially dogged in trying to get out the basic facts, not that it worked.
On CBS's "Early Show," MRC analyst Mike Rule found that co-host Harry Smith was the fastest to cave in to the refusal to answer the basics:
Smith: "Congresswoman, let me, please help me construct what happened. You're entering a Capitol building, you're bypassing a metal detector, which is routine for members of Congress, what happened then?"
Cynthia McKinney: "Harry, this has become much ado about a hairdo, and I've got an email sent to me from a former page; I want to read it. It says 'after nearly a decade as a member of Congress, and with so many members not wearing their member pins, one can't help but think that this wouldn't have happened if you were a cookie-cutter member of Congress.' He concludes by saying this, 'I'm a white kid from rural Georgia, so let people know that you have a diverse variety of support.' So now, the question that I would like to ask, and this came up in one of the press conferences that I had one down in Georgia..."
Harry Smith: "Miss McKinney, Miss McKinney, please, hang on one second. Please, please, please, just listen one second. A lot of people in the country just don't know this story. You were walking through, according to the uh, uh, uh, versions of the story we've heard, Capitol police ask you to stop three times, you're not wearing your pin, they try to body block you, then what happens? We want to know what actually happened that day."
Cynthia McKinney: "This, this, this has become much ado about a hairdo. And, what this page, this former page, is saying is that face recognition is the issue. And it's not a pin, as you can see this is the pin, it doesn't have my name on it, and it doesn't have a picture on it. So, and quite frankly, this can be duplicated. So, security shouldn't be based on a pin. We should have real security measures in place. But instead, people are focusing on my hair do. And, quite frankly, the question that arose at the press conference in Georgia was this. Why is there so much focus on my hair-do, what is it that's going on in Washington DC? Is it the impending war in Iraq, in Iran? Is it the war in Iraq? Is it the fact that 250 black police officers have filed a lawsuit against Capitol Police? What's going on here really?"
Harry Smith: "Let me ask you this, because there are people in the, around the country, who are sympathetic to what happened to you from the standpoint that these kinds of indignities happen to people of color everyday in this country. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who are say, in this age of heightened security, these are the kinds of things that we, we must subject ourselves to the power of law enforcement everyday. Where is the truth of this?"
Cynthia McKinney: "The outpouring of support inside the fourth Congressional district has been tremendous because, Harry, you're absolutely right. People all over this country face this problem, particularly, people of color, and they absolutely understand."
Harry Smith: "But shouldn't a member of..."
Mike Rafov, McKinney lawyer: "And I would like to add..."
Harry Smith: "<sigh> Go ahead..."
At least Smith did cite a critical editorial: "Even in the USA Today, today, the editorial page, it suggests, Miss McKinney, you should stop exploiting a phony race issue and apologize for your overbearing behavior.'"
On FNC's "Fox and Friends," MRC analyst Scott Whitock found that co-host Brian Kilmeade faced the same brick wall. It began the same way:
Kilmeade: "Could you just clear up the record, because I know you since have taken back your original statement about what happened that day. What did you actually do, if anything, to the capitol police officer who was asking you to stop?"
McKinney: "Let me clarify one thing, we've been issued one statement which has been widely distributed, um, and I don't know what you're talking about me having taken back anything. What I would say, however, is that, um, much ado about a hairdo, and the issue of security and securing the capitol complex ought to be about face recognition and that's why members of the Capitol Hill police department are, uh, distributed face picture books to that they can get to know the members of Congress by face and by name that they're charged with protecting."
Kilmeade: "But, but, but if they miss him, are they allowed to stop you? If they miss your face as you walk by with your new hair style, are they allowed to stop you and say excuse me, could I see your ID please?"
McKinney: "Let me also just say that I received a email from a former page and I’d like to just say what it is. It says, I also believe one of the primary responsibilities of a capitol police officer should be to know every member of Congress. When I was 16 years old, and your page, we were required to know. So that rule should most definitely apply to capitol police. And so, we’re talking about-"
Kilmeade: "They say, according to the police chief, who backs up the way the capitol police officer handled the situation says they are forced to screen 30,000 people a day and says your repeated claims that this incident was racist is highly inappropriate."
McKinney: "Well, what I have suggested, and what many other people have quite frankly suggested is that the issue of racial profiling needs to be one that is discussed and dealt with by the American people. We've had two press conferences, one of which in Washington D.C., we had 39 young people visiting from the state of Georgia, all of whom were African American."
McKinney: "And they had a very, very negative experience with a Capitol Hill Police. 250 black police officers have filed a lawsuit against the Capitol Police. In in our second press conference ."
Kilmeade: "Right. Right. Where were- Right. And, and Congresswoman where were- Could you- Did you hit him at all? Could you just tell me if you hit- Could you just tell me if- I know that. We saw the press conference. Could you just tell me if you hit the officer?
McKinney: "Well, I’m glad that you did. We had black elected officials who recounted their experiences."
Kilmeade: "Right. About your incident though? About your incident? About your incident? Could you tell me if you hit the capitol officer?"
McKinney: "I think it’s about time I brought my attorney in."
The lawyer, James Myart, said they’d have no comment on a pending investigation. Kilmeade then tried to draw out an answer to the notion that House Democrats, even Mel Watt, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, have not issued supportive statements on McKinney’s behalf. McKinney did deny (first through her lawyer!) that she and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are not on speaking terms.
On CNN's "American Morning," MRC analyst Megan McCormack was struck by how co-host Soledad O'Brien fiercely stuck to trying to get the basic facts out. She began:
First, Congresswoman, can you tell me from the very beginning, what happened on that day, Wednesday? You’re trying to come in to your office to go to a meeting, I know. What happened?
Representative Cynthia McKinney: "Good morning, Soledad. Thank you so much for having us on this morning. Let me say that this has become much ado about a hairdo. And the real issue–"
O’Brien: "Well, and I, and I hear you, but let me–I’m going to stop you there because–let me–"
McKinney: "The real issue–you can’t stop me, Soledad. The real issue is–the, the, the real issue–"
O’Brien: "Well, I want to get to what happened first, and then we’ll get into the real issue because we need to establish what happened."
McKinney: "The real issue, the real issue is face recognition and security around the Capitol complex. And I have a, an e-mail here from a former page saying that 16-year-old pages are required to know by name and by face the, all of the members of Congress. Shouldn’t Capitol Hill police officers be required to do the same? And I–"
O’Brien: "The answer to that question may be, Congresswoman, no, actually, technically, they’re not. Their job is to protect yourself and your other fellow members of Congress. But before we get into the far reaching implications, and I know we’ve been talking about race and racial profiling over the last several days, I just want to know what happened. You go through the metal–you, you approach the metal detector. Tell me, in your own words, what happened."
Mike Raffauf, attorney for Rep. McKinney: "Well, that should be answered by her attorney. Look, whatever reaction she had, this is not a criminal matter. What you had was bad security policy being implemented by a poorly trained officer that led to the inappropriate stop and inappropriate touching of the congresswoman."
O’Brien: "Ok, so let me, let me–"
Raffauf: "Now whether she was a push, a shove, a hit, it doesn’t matter."
O’Brien: "Well, what’s the congresswoman’s story? Were, were you pushed? Were you shoved? Were you hit? Did you hit back?"
Raffauf: "Well, again, we’re not the ones who turned this into a criminal matter. And, you know, a person who’s accused of a crime is not going to give a statement at this point, so–"
O’Brien: "But actually, but with all due respect, sir, and gosh knows I’m not a lawyer, lots of people who are accused of a crime would say, here’s what happened. Why can’t someone just walk me through what happened?"
Raffauf: "Well, we don’t know, we haven’t been told what happened that set–"
O’Brien: "From your side, what happened? From the congresswoman’s side, what happened?"
McKinney: "Well, let me just say that it is a fact that we have had several discussions, and you’re absolutely right, right there at CNN, about this larger issue of racial profiling. We’ve had a press conference with Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte where 39 young African-Americans from Georgia told their story about how they were, they felt disrespected and mistreated by the Capitol Police. We have 200–"
O’Brien: "With all due respect, Congresswoman, and forgive me for interrupting you, but I believe we can’t have this–"
McKinney: "We have 250– no, but you shouldn’t interrupt me, Soledad."
O’Brien: "Well, until you answer my question, I’m not sure we can move on."
McKinney: "We have 2–we–we have 250–"
O’Brien: "What I’m trying to establish is, are you saying that a Capitol Police officer pushed you, grabbed you inappropriately? And, ma’am, if he did, please explain what happened. That’s all. Let’s establish that. Then I would love to talk about racial profiling."
O’Brien: "I have a great interest in talking about race."
James Myart, Jr., Attorney: "Let me make a comment, Soledad."
O’Brien: "I believe this is your attorney on the phone."
Myart: "I understand the fact that you’re trying to interview her and, and get her to answer, answer certain questions. But, look, if this was such a big crime, why was Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney not arrested on the spot? Now we have got to get the stories correct here."
O’Brien: "I could not agree with you more."
Myart: "Capitol Police failed at their job."
O’Brien: "I could not agree with you more that we should get the stories correct. So, somebody, anybody, lawyer, Congresswoman, you walk up to get into the, the office building. What happened? Were you, did you–you weren’t wearing your pin, I know, and you’ve said that. You did say that on interview with Wolf Blitzer. You, you approached the area. What–just tell me what happened."
Raffauf: "Look, we have, we have answered that question as to the best that we can under these circumstances. Again, this matter’s under review right now. Criminal charges may be brought. Congresswoman McKinney did cooperate with the Capitol Hill Police. She sat down with them. This is not going to be a place where we’re going to rehash the facts of this incident."
McKinney: "And I’m your, and I’m your guest."
O’Brien: "It’s never been stated–and I’m happy to have you as a guest. And you know–"
McKinney: "Thank you."
O’Brien: "–I’m always happy to talk to you about this issue or any other issue."
McKinney: "Thank you."
O’Brien: "But what’s at issue here, with all due respect, is what happened on that day. Did you push the police officer?"
Raffauf: "We don’t know. We don’t even know the allegations."
O’Brien: "Does the police officer–"
Raffauf: "We don’t know what specifically she’s accused of. So–"
McKinney: "And, Soledad, let me also just say that while we’re talking about a new hairdo and a pin, this is the congressional pin that doesn’t have a name on it, it doesn’t have a face or a photo ID on it and, quite frankly, it can be duplicated. But what are the other issues that we’re not talking about? I’m going to continue to talk about the fact that the Republican budget drowns America’s children in a sea of debt. I’m going to continue to talk about the war in Iraq and my opposition to it. I’m going to continue to talk about the, my opposition to any impending strike against Iran. No more war."
O’Brien: "All, all interesting, all interesting topics, ma’am. But to, to a large degree, what’s being talked about now is an issue that, really, it’s unclear how you’re going to get a straight story out of–"
McKinney: "Well, I, I really–"
O’Brien: "But listen, let me, let me, let me, let me– just stop for one second."
She brought on Terrence Gainer, head of the Capitol Police, who spelled out the basic allegations of the incident. Gainer pleaded that "at those busy doors, where some 30,000 people come into our complex who work there, some nine million visitors a year, the doors are busy and the officers are told, slow down and make sure we know who’s coming in the building." Then O'Brien tried again to drag a response out of McKinney.
O’Brien: "Chief Gainer, let me bring Congresswoman McKinney back in to talk with us. Congresswoman McKinney, you’ve been listening to what the chief has had to say. Any final word? Any response?"
Raffauf: "Well, I think that she did sit down with them the same day. She sat down with the supervisors–"
O’Brien: "I’m sorry. Let me–forgive me, forgive me. This is not a legal question. It’s just a, do you have a final response, Congresswoman?"
McKinney: "Soledad, I think you should accept the response that my attorney is trying to give to you."
Raffauf: "She sat down with the supervisors of the Capitol Hill Police force that day. She talked to them about what happened. She offered to talk to the officer. So the congresswoman is not the one who’s blown this incident all out of proportion...
It's quite clear McKinney's behavior, first her rudeness to Capitol Police and then her rudeness to TV anchors, have helped blow this incident out of proportion. A normal Member of Congress would have submitted to security, and worked hard to stay out of the papers if they had an issue with the Capitol Police. McKinney is working hard to get into the papers with wild charges of racism, and it's clear that other Democrats are not happy with how the story has emerged onto the networks.