April 7, 2006 in Nation/World

McKinney apologizes for altercation

Nick Timiraos and Johanna Neuman Los Angeles Times
The Spokesman-Review photo

(Full-size photo)

WASHINGTON – Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., facing a grand jury investigation and a cold shoulder from colleagues, apologized on the House floor Thursday for an altercation with a Capitol Police officer who had asked her to stop after she walked around a security checkpoint.

“I am sorry that this misunderstanding happened at all, and I regret its escalation,” the Georgia Democrat said. “And I apologize.”

McKinney’s words and tone contrasted sharply with her initial reaction to the incident, which occurred March 29. Over the next several days, a defiant McKinney insisted the officer had acted inappropriately.

Lawmakers wearing identification pins routinely are waved into the Capitol and surrounding office buildings without passing through metal detectors. But McKinney, who is black, was not wearing her pin when she entered the Longworth House Office Building and, in the ensuing confrontation, hit the white officer who touched her shoulder in seeking to stop her.

At a news conference last Friday that included singer Harry Belafonte and actor Danny Glover, McKinney charged she was a victim of racial profiling and “inappropriate touching.” In numerous television interviews, she also said the matter was “much ado about a hairdo,” suggesting one reason the officer did not recognize her was that she recently changed her hairstyle.

But after the scuffle was referred to a federal grand jury – and as it turned into a political lightning rod – McKinney came under increasing pressure to defuse the situation.

Fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus delivered that message to her during a closed-door meeting Wednesday night. And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., clearly was perturbed by the continuing furor – especially when she and other Democratic leaders wanted to focus on the decision earlier this week by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, to resign from Congress.

Pelosi distanced herself from McKinney when asked to comment on the case, saying, “The matter is under investigation … I don’t see any conceivable reason why someone would strike a Capitol Police officer.”

It was unclear Thursday if McKinney’s apology would have any impact on the grand jury, which is weighing assault charges against her. Two congressional aides who witnessed the security incident – Troy Phillips, who works for Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Lisa Subrize, who works for Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich. – were subpoenaed Wednesday to testify before the panel.

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