— Liberal activist and comedian Al Franken helped eject a boisterous heckler from a crowded Howard Dean rally at the Palace Theatre Monday, the theater’s manager said yesterday.
The heckler began yelling from the rear of the theater while the Democratic Presidential hopeful was taking questions from the audience, theater manager Peter Ramsey said.
Two members of Dean’s security team immediately moved in on the man, who shoved and elbowed them, Ramsey said.
“He was screaming. He was out of control,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey said he went over to help calm the situation and also got elbowed and pushed.
“All of a sudden, I looked to my right, and Al Franken was grabbing onto this man’s back,” Ramsey said.
“He (Franken) gave him a hefty Patriots block. He should be a Patriot,” Ramsey said.
Keep reading. The story as Ramsey tells it is truly bizarre. It is also nothing at all liked the NY Post report I linked to yesterday. As Ramsey tells the story, Franken actually comes out sounding pretty good. (Although his freedom of speech remarks are still totally off base.)
Curiously, in this version Franken apparently helped trying to restrain this protestor after the guy elbowed him in the face and knocked off his glasses while fighting with security guards. That makes it sound like it had very little to do with protecting free speech (as Franken claimed) and everything to do with helping to contain a public menace.
Even in this version, it doesn't appear that the protestor was doing anything wrong until the security guards came for him. However, this event was in a private theater (another fact that the Post left out) which means that Dean's guards had every right to kick him out even if his only offense was yelling at Dean.
I suppose it's entirely possilbe that tommorrow we'll get another version of events that would cast Franken in a bad light again, but there's quite a bit of detail in this version that just doesn't sound like you'd think to throw in if you were just making it up.
I find it very odd that this story by Ramsey makes Franken sound like a hero while the way Franken told it to the Post made him sound like a raving lunatic. What happened? Maybe Franken was trying to make himself sound tough and cool and it just came out wrong. Maybe the Post left out some of Franken's version. I really don't know how to account for the discrepancy.
Meanwhile, it appears I (and plenty of others) owe Franken an apology for accusing him of assault and battery. I stand by every thing I said. If the facts were as the Post reported them (which was all the data I had) then Franken's actions would be indefensible. However, based on new evidence it appears that the Post report left much to be desired. If all Franken did was help security guards retain a protestor who'd gotten violent, then he did exactly the right thing and is to be commended.
Although if he gets in a scrape like this again he should probably let someone else tell the story.
Update: I note that the Kansas City Star's report sounds a lot like the Post report.
There are some details that were in the Post's report that I missed. I didn't miss them in the Star. They make things harder to understand still. Both the Post and the Star say that Franken put the guy in a bear hug from behind and slammed him to the ground. Franken himself said, ""I got down low and took his legs out." I'm having trouble seeing how those two descriptions in the same story can possible jive. Taking a guys legs out usually means hitting them in the legs in such a way that they fall, not picking them up and slamming them to the ground. And none of that explains why neither the Post nor the Star mention the two security guards of the fact that the guy had already hit the theater manager.
Meanwhile, this CNN report sounds a lot closer to the theater manager's version. It also describes a similar event at a Lieberman rally (sans Franken) as well as LaRouche heckler's at a John Kerry event. (Which is really odd when you consider that the LaRouche guys at the Dean event reportedly said that only LaRouche and Kerry were "telling the truth."
I'm beginning to wonder not just what happened, but if any one knows what happened. Then again, it may not much matter what really happened. The story now appears to have a life of it's own as satirsts have begun to unload.
On a final note, maybe, I have a semi-unrelated thought. Franken claims he's not a Dean supporter, so what exactly was he doing there? Did he show up to not support Dean. How many celibrities show up at the political rallies of people they're not supporting? Wouldn't his mere presence there be taken as an endorsement?
And why are LaRouchies so crazy? Is it genetic, or something in the water?
Another update: OK, so I wasn't done. GOPUSA has this quote from Tim Russert:
Interestingly, one of the witnesses of the brutality shown by Franken was NBC's "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert.
"One of the Lyndon LaRouche guys got up and started screaming and yelling," Russert stated on the Don Imus radio show on Tuesday. "The press guy for Dean tried to grab onto him and remove him, and he couldn't do it."
Russert said he was thoroughly surprised by what he saw next.
"All of a sudden, Al Franken jumped out of the media gallery, ran down and grabbed this guy on the leg and started wrestling him to the ground," Russert recalled. "It was unbelievable. He was really into it."
They also report that the police were called, but declined to arrest Franken.
Russert makes no mention of security guards or the attack on the theater manager, instead he mentions "the press guy for Dean" trying to restrain the guy. The stories I mentioned before don't mention the police being called.
Granted, this last report is from a source with axe to grind, but that doesn't mean they're not telling the truth. (And I seriously doubt they'd make up the Russert quotes as that's just to easy to check. Please, no wheels within wheels arguments here. If I'm wrong, prove it to me.)
This version does explain why Franken was there. It says he was in the media gallery. Although that would imply he was there to report on the rally and I wasn't aware that he'd been hired as a reporter. (Commentator yes, but reporter?)