A scuffle in a hotel lobby in Charlottesville, Va. yesterday between a liberal blogger and supporters of Republican Senator George Allen has made the pages of the Washington Post today, adding more attention to an incident that has been widely discussed on partisan blogs. The Post article identifies the “Democratic activist” as W. Michael Stark, a law student at the University of Virginia. According to the article, Stark “yelled a question at Allen (R-VA) about whether he had ever spit on his first wife, an unsubstantiated charge that has been circulating on liberal blogs on the Internet. Allen supporters hauled him away from the senator as television cameras rolled.”
Cameras were indeed rolling, as footage of the disturbance has since appeared on local news broadcasts, on YouTube, and on several blogs.
Soon after the encounter, Stark wrote a letter to NBC 29 in Charlottesville, which the station has since reprinted on its Web site. “I am a law student at the University of Virginia, a Marine, and a citizen journalist,” wrote Stark. “Earlier today at a public event, I was attempting to ask Senator Allen a question about his sealed divorce record and his arrest in the 1970s, both of which are in the public domain. His people assaulted me, put me in a headlock, and wrestled me to the ground. Video footage is available here, from an NBC affiliate. I demand that Senator Allen fire the staffers who beat up a constituent attempting to use his constitutional right to petition his government.”
“I will be pressing charges against George Allen and his surrogates later today,” Stark added towards the end of the letter.
The Allen camp wasted little time in responding to the incident.
From the Allen Blog: “Today in Charlottesville, Mike Stark, a Democratic activist and [James] 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. Aside from being a Democratic activist — and ‘hopeful that I can be useful to the Webb campaign’ — Mike Stark has a history of what he calls ‘guerrilla tactics.’”
In the wake of the incident, bloggers have been critical of the media’s handling of the event.
“When he was set upon by paid George Allen thugs and savagely beaten, the Post headlined it as, ‘Allen Supporters Wrestle Heckler To Ground,’” writes DownWithTyranny! “The paid Allen thugs are ‘supporters.’ The blogger in the media area is a ‘heckler’ and the savage beating is a little wrestling? The headline writer is certainly a scum-sucking tool but the two reporters aren’t so fabulous either … The Post also gave space to the absurd charge that this was orchestrated by Webb and the Democratic Party to embarrass Macacawitz, who has certainly proven over the course of this campaign that he needs no help from anyone in embarrassing himself. I wonder why Macacawitz and the Post didn’t just blame Bill Clinton.”
“The heckler who tried to accost George Allen at a campaign appearance was a Kos diarist who was trying to provoke a response against Allen,” writes Blue Crab Boulevard. “Now that isn’t at all surprising in this utterly awful campaign season. What is very, very surprising is that the AP is reporting it straight — including the man’s threat to try to provoke a response.”
Writing on his own blog on Monday, Stark expressed a desire to “Roger and Me” George Allen (referring to the 1989 documentary in which filmmaker Michael Moore doggedly follows around General Motors CEO Roger Smith). Now, other bloggers are scorning Stark’s actions.