Wednesday, September 17, 2008
FOLIO WEEKLY COLUMN BY ANNE SCHINDLER -- Straight to Video
Straight to Video
Before you read this, I invite you to check out the
56-second video clip in question. It’s posted on our blog (folioweekly.com/folioblog) and YouTube (search for “John Mica”).
For those of you without an Internet connection, here’s a brief description: In the footage, Republican Congressmember John Mica, who represents portions of Northeast Florida, is seen leaving a Minneapolis nightclub after a lavish convention-week party thrown by disgraced former House Leader Tom DeLay. An ABC News cameraman, who was covering Delay’s return to the GOP fold, questions Mica about the event.
“Mr. Mica,” he asks, “with Tom DeLay coming back — was it good to see Tom DeLay?”
Mica doesn’t respond. He quickly turns his back to the camera and asks some thuggish pals to screen him from view. One of them deliberately bumps the cameraman; another approaches with arms folded, shielding Mica. In the background, the lawmaker ducks and dodges, attempting to elude the camera. The ABC reporter persists. “I don’t mean to pester you — I’m just curious with a couple questions.” At this point, Mica bends down and head-butts the underside of the video camera.
“Oooh, you hit me in the head,” Mica says mockingly. “Don’t hit me in the head again.”
The cameraman responds quickly. “I didn’t do that, sir.”
“— I’ll knock that thing out of your hand,” Mica continues, shoving the lens with his hand.
“Don’t touch my camera, sir,” the reporter says. “Please don’t touch my camera. Please don’t touch my camera.”
At this point, Mica’s thugs begin pushing and manhandling the cameraman, knocking his lens away with force. “Whoa, stop, man — I’m a journalist,” the reporter stammers. “I’m on public property. Let go of my camera. I’m just a journalist!”
The footage captures a brief shot of a Mica supporter summoning a police officer and pointing at the camera. “No, I didn’t,” the reporter can be heard saying. “Oh my God. Holy (expletive bleeped).”
There are a lot of questions raised by this bizarre little video, but first among them has to be: Whatever happened to “No comment”? Though Mica told several news outlets that he felt threatened by the reporter, it’s frankly impossible to believe him after watching the video. Mica and his minions are clearly in control. The lawmaker is surrounded by supporters, allies and meatheads unafraid of physical confrontation. The cameraman, meanwhile, is intimidated and bullied, unable to ask a simple question.
Another question might be: Why is Mica lying? The lawmaker has continued to insist that the cameraman hit him in the head. Not only did Mica make the allegation on the original film — albeit in a tone that borders on laughter — but he allowed his posse to accuse the newsman of assault, to a nearby cop. The cameraman wasn’t arrested, but Mica has continued to claim he was the victim — not the other way around.
So why was Mica so skittish? Perhaps because of where he’d been. Dubbed “Ultra-Conservative Girls Gone Wild” by a Minneapolis Star Tribune blog, the party at the slick Aqua Bar featured fat cigars, rich lobbyists and a somewhat debauched atmosphere. (According to the blog, Smash Mouth singer Steve Harwell invited hotties on stage and poured shots of Jägermeister and tequila into their mouths.) Sleazier by far was the presence of DeLay, who accepted tens of thousands of dollars in gifts from convicted super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and who was forced to resign after being indicted on conspiracy and money laundering charges.
An ordinary lawmaker might worry about how that kind of stuff plays at home — partying with an indicted powerbroker, head-butting a reporter. Fortunately for John Mica, he doesn’t need to worry about such scrutiny. Orlando Sentinel political columnist Scott Maxwell called the incident funny, and vouched for Mica. “If he says the scene was a misunderstanding and that he didn’t hit the camera, I’m prone to believe him.” He added, “I’ll be honest: I don’t wanna mess with Mica.”
The St. Augustine Record went further, climbing up in Mica’s lap with an editorial so fawning and sycophantic, it’s embarrassing to read. Titled, “Fine line between responsible and irresponsible journalism,” the piece actually criticizes ABC as “unprofessional” and repeats — without refutation — Mica’s claim of “gotcha journalism.” All evidence to the contrary, the piece quotes Mica saying, “I love talking to the press.” The editorial added, obsequiously, “We know. He always responds to our calls and interviews.”
Painful as it is to reprint, here’s the rest: “Mica believed that the incident was unintentional. But that’s not the point. The point is irresponsible journalists give the rest of us a bad name.”
No, what truly gives the rest of us a bad name is the shamelessly uncritical eye of modern media, which has so forsaken the cause of accuracy and honesty that it’s been supplanted by “The Daily Show.” The truth about Mica is clear to anyone who cares to open their eyes. But it’s one piece of news you’ll have to gather for yourself.