WASHINGTON U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge apologized today for actions caught on video recently by two young men who caught up with him outside a Washington fundraiser.
The video shows Etheridge grabbing the wrist of one of the men, and then by the nape of the neck, while repeatedly asking, Who are you?
I have seen the video posted on several blogs. I deeply and profoundly regret my reaction and I apologize to all involved, Etheridge said in a prepared statement.
Throughout my many years of service to the people of North Carolina, I have always tried to treat people from all viewpoints with respect, he said. 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.
In a news conference, Etheridge apologized again.
"I apologize for my actions. They were unacceptable," Etheridge said. "No matter how difficult things get sometimes, that's no excuse for my response."
Etheridge, a Lillington Democrat, was leaving a fundraiser in Washington headlined by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when two guys with video cameras met him, according to a blog post on Big Government, a site affiliated with conservative commentator and publisher Andrew Breitbart.
"Do you fully support the Obama agenda?" says one of the guys, as Etheridge asks "Who are you?"
Etheridge repeats the question several times as he tries to swat one of the cameras out of his face.
"He goes BERSERK!" reads text on the video clip, which includes a couple of edits.
The men say they are college students working on a project, but dont further identify themselves. The face of the one man shown on the video is blurred out.
Etheridge continues asking who the men are and as they refuse to state their names, Etheridge holds one by the wrist and grabs him by the back of the neck.
The clip, posted early Monday morning on Big Government and Breitbart.TV is already making the rounds.
"Bob Etheridge has lost it. His conduct is unbecoming of a member of Congress," Jon Thompson, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement.
Robert Gibbs, White House press secretary, who once worked for U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, applauded Etheridge's apology.
"I've known Bob Etheridge for more than thirteen years and I am proud to have worked for him. He is one of the most honorable people I know. Everyone makes mistakes, and I'm proud of Bob for taking responsibility and apologizing for his," Gibbs said in an e-mail.
On reporters' questions, Etheridge said he would not make excuses or lay blame for what happened.
He said the incident happened on a street in Washington after a long day.
He was asked if he apologized to the men with cameras.
"I don't know who they are," Etheridge said. "I would. If I knew who they were."