George Allen Heckler Assaulted
Yet another bizarre incident captured on video in the tight U.S. Senate race in Virginia pitting Republican incumbent George Allen against Jim Webb.
Michael Shear and Tim Craig in today’s WaPo (page A13, so relatively buried):
A Democratic activist who verbally confronted U.S. Sen. George Allen at a campaign rally in Charlottesville yesterday was shoved, put into a headlock and thrown against a window by three men wearing Allen stickers, according to a widely disseminated video of the incident.
W. Michael Stark, who identified himself in an e-mail after the incident as a University of Virginia law student, yelled a question at Allen (R) about whether he had ever spit on his first wife, an unsubstantiated charge that has been circulating on liberal blogs on the Internet [As opposed to liberal blogs not on the Internet? – ed.] . Allen supporters hauled him away from the senator as television cameras rolled. “I demand that Senator Allen fire the staffers who beat up a constituent attempting to use his constitutional right to petition his government,” Stark wrote in an e-mail.
Charlottesville Police Lt. Gary Pleasants said Stark reported the incident yesterday and indicated that he wanted to press assault charges against the men. Pleasants said police are investigating and trying to determine the names of the Allen staffers involved. “We will find out who the people are, give him the information and he can go to the magistrate and try to obtain a warrant for them,” Pleasants said.
Jon Henke, blogging for the Allen campaign, describes it this way:
Today in Charlottesville, Mike Stark, a Democratic activist and Webb supporter with a history of aggressively harassing Senator Allen and pulling stunts for media attention, crashed a campaign event, tried to push his way into a crowd and then engaged in a struggle with the people who he had been forcing his way past.
He lost the mutual struggle, which has led to Democrats alleging that he was ‘assaulted’. However, first contact was initiated by Mike Stark.
Video of the event, from CNN, is available at Hot Air and AlterNet. Via email, Henke mentions a “fuller video” that puts things into context; I’ve responded asking for a copy. [Update: The “fuller video” is just the CNN coverage at AlterNet, previously linked. Apparently, there was previously a snippet being shown that didn’t include the lead-in.]
This version certainly doesn’t reflect well on Allen. The fact that Stark is a former Marine doesn’t help, either. Indeed, Steven Taylor thinks this might be the final nail in Allen’s coffin:
I have seen such scenarios numerous times on video over the years where a politicians is approached by someone wishing to make a scene. I have not, however, seen that person taken down by persons in the politicians entourage. Normally the politicians endures the persons until he can leave and until security arrives to ask the person to go. Stark did nothing to deserve fingers in his face, a headlock and being pushed to the ground.
It is remarkable on a number of levels that anyone associated with the Allen campaign would act like that with cameras present.
Indeed, this is at least the second time (the infamous Macaca incident being the first) a Webb operative managed to create a video incident at an Allen event. Stark is unabashed that this was his intention:
In a Monday posting on “Calling All Wingnuts,” the blog Stark publishes, he hinted that he would attempt to provoke Allen before the TV cameras. “Im also trying to `Roger and Me’ George Allen whenever I can,” Stark wrote, referring to director Michael Moore’s 1989 documentary in which he repeatedly tried to confront former General Motors’ chief executive Roger Smith about the company’s downsizing.
Several conservative bloggers seem to believe that Stark therefore got what was coming to him. I would argue, though, that he got exactly what he wanted: National attention to a scurrilous charge previously limited to the nuttier lefty blogs along with footage of Allen supporters acting like goons.
And this is pretty weak excuse to assault someone for asking a question:
According to a news release from Allen’s campaign, the incident began when Stark pushed an Allen staffer. “Later, volunteers restrained him and asked to leave the building when he approached the senator a second time, asking inappropriate questions,” the release said.
As to the charge, it would be appear to be untrue:
Allen’s former wife, Anne Waddell, who lives in California, said that she and Allen divorced more than 22 years ago, and that because it was a personal matter they sealed the divorce records. She issued a statement calling Stark’s question “a baseless, cheap shot.”
Contempt would be a better response to those such as Stark. Who has rather solid ground to stand on here:
Stark said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press: “I am a constituent. I am allowed to ask my U.S. senator questions.”
One would think. Certainly, the campaign has the right to bar him from private events. But perhaps they should have hired some security guards?