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McKinney in fracas with officer

Hill News | March 29, 2006
By Josephine Hearn and Jonathan E. Kaplan

A U.S. Capitol Police officer is considering filing assault charges against Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) following an altercation yesterday in which she allegedly hit him after he asked to see identification, according to a source familiar with the incident.

The incident occurred at approximately 8:50 yesterday morning at the New Jersey Avenue and C Street entrance to the Longworth Building. As McKinney was entering the building, the officer stopped her and asked for identification. McKinney allegedly hit him before identifying herself as a member of Congress and walking away, the source said.

McKinney’s office would not comment on the incident yesterday afternoon.

Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, spokeswoman for the Capitol Police, was unable to confirm the details of the account, saying, “The matter has been brought to our attention and is currently under investigation.”

Members of the House do not typically display their congressional ID cards around the Capitol complex, as staff do, but many wear the official lapel pin for the 109th Congress. It was not known whether McKinney was displaying the pin yesterday.

With or without the pin, many Congress members pass through security with merely a nod or hello to security officers. They are not required to pass through metal detectors.

Capitol Hill publication Hotline reported a witness’s account on its blog. According to the blog, the witness recounted that the officer pursued McKinney after she failed to pass through the metal detector. As the officer took McKinney by the arm, she swung around and punched him in the chest while still holding on to her cell phone.

The incident is likely to have been caught on videotape, since all Capitol Hill entrances are monitored by cameras.

Republicans wasted no time pouncing on the events. National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Carl Forti tied the altercation to Democrats’ unveiling of their security agenda yesterday.

“Today’s ironic one-two punch from national Democrats trying to look tough on security finds Cynthia McKinney attacking a member of the law-enforcement community,” he said. “When we said Democrats were all talk and no action on security, we did not mean to provoke them to take matters into their own cell-phone-clutching hands.”

The incident yesterday was uncannily reminiscent of a scene in a recent documentary about McKinney, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Filmmaker Ian Inaba followed her around Capitol Hill for “American Blackout,” about African-American voting rights and McKinney’s 2002 reelection bid.

In one scene, McKinney is walking into the House side of the Capitol with Inaba when a white Capitol Police officer stops her. McKinney informs him that she is a congresswoman, prompting an immediate apology.

She then told the filmmaker that she is often challenged when entering the Capitol.

The documentary debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

First elected in 1992, McKinney, 51, has a history of lashing out at government security guards:

• In 1993, after she complained about being stopped by security guards, Capitol Police posted a photo of her on an office wall so that officers could remember who she was.

• In 1995, McKinney reportedly contacted the sergeant at arms after a white Capitol Police officer asked her to consent to a security check.

• In 1996 and 1998, she complained that White House security officials failed to recognize her and did not give her the same treatment as other members of Congress, at one time mistaking her 23-year-old white aide for the congresswoman.

“I am absolutely sick and tired of having to have my appearance at the White House validated by white people,” she said at the time.

Those comments and others have earned McKinney a reputation as one of the most outspoken and controversial members of Congress.

Shortly after Sept. 11, McKinney apologized to a member of the Saudi royal family after New York’s then-mayor, Rudy Giuliani, rejected the family’s $10 million contribution to recovery efforts on the grounds that the Saudis had said the attacks had been provoked by U.S. support of Israel.

Later, McKinney argued that President Bush may have ignored warnings of the impending attacks to buoy defense stocks.

McKinney drew a challenger in her 2002 primary, African-American Judge Denise Majette. The race focused on Middle East issues, juxtaposing McKinney’s sympathies with Arab causes with Majette’s support from Jewish groups.

Majette won with a 16 percent margin, a rare and embarrassing defeat for an incumbent.

Majette later ran unsuccessfully for the Senate, and McKinney won back her old seat. When she returned to the House, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) broke with tradition and denied her the seniority her previous service would have allowed her in committee rankings.


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