Plenty of Lessons in Congressman Bob Etheridge's YouTube Moment

Filed under: In The News, Media


The video of Democratic Congressman Bob Etheridge grabbing a young student who approached him on the street for an on-the-fly interview has gone viral and will likely mar the North Carolina representative's career in Congress. But is this type of guerrilla interview style fair game for politicians? And should we encourage kids to "get answers" to their political questions by engaging in this type of reporting?

The answer to the first question, in my opinion is yes, this is fair game. Constituents have a right to access their representatives and many voters are rightfully frustrated by representatives who have refused to hold town hall meetings or return their calls. Citizens and journalists who are tired of form letters, sound bites and other "phony" communication techniques employed by career politicians will resort to these tactics.

That said, nobody enjoys a microphone being shoved in their face as they stroll to work -- especially if the reporter refuses to identify who he is. It's unnerving and annoying.

Nonetheless, there's no excuse for Rep. Etheridge's behavior. It's odd and inappropriate and there's plenty of chatter on the blogs suggesting he looks a little drunk in the footage (you decide).

The young man, whose identity is being protected for fear he may become the target of intense scrutiny and harassment, asked a fairly reasonable question: "Do you agree with the Obama agenda?" Not exactly bomb-throwing material. Moreover, to the kid's credit, he remains polite throughout the ordeal. Even as the congressman grabs him around the neck, he throws his hands up and pleads, "Sir, please, sir." This is literally child's play next to the media tactics of professional activists like Code Pink. Indeed, he could give the infamous pink ladies a lesson in civility.

I have no idea who was behind this young man's "project." It could be a school project or Rep. Etheridge's congressional opponent back home may have hired him. My own husband is currently running for Congress and has been followed by a camera toting operative from his opponent's camp. In the age of YouTube and cell phone cameras, anyone running for office knows that this is now part of the deal -- like it or not.

There's simply no getting around the fact that Rep. Etheridge acted in a way unbecoming of a congressman, and not just because he acted violently, but also because his arrogance suggests he thinks he's above such questioning.
In my kitchen table civics lessons, I'm always reminding my kids that their representatives in government work for them. That's right, I tell them, you are the boss of them. When a congressperson forgets that simple lesson, it's time for him or her to go.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.