Well this can't be good. The heated acrimony in the bitter race between Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman boiled over into something a bit more...unseemly. The scene was a debate today before students at Pierce College in Woodland Hillls. Berman and Sherman were doing their usual call the other guy a boob routine, both of them standing and trying to talk over the other. Students were hooting and hollering and egging on the spectacle of these two senior congressmen arguing a few feet away.
Then it gets physical.
In the video, Berman walks up close to Sherman — I can't tell his intentions. Sherman goes jaw-to-jaw with Berman and yells for him to stay away — there is definite finger pointing. Then Sherman grabs his older Democratic colleague roughly around the shoulder and shouts, nose to nose, "Do you want to get into this?" Sherman drops the hold but they continue jawing as the students cheer and guffaw, until a uniformed deputy sheriff approaches Congressman Sherman sheepishly, seeming to suggest he cool down. Sherman appears to acknowledge the deputy and backs away from his opponent.
The Berman campaign circulated two versions of the video and a release headlined "Has Brad Sherman lost his mind?" In the text of the release, the Berman campaign says that Sherman initiated a "physical altercation with Berman."
Said Brandon Hall, senior advisor to the Berman campaign: "At a debate in front of local college students Congressman Brad Sherman loses his mind and acts like a bully. This speaks directly to his temperament that is totally unsuitable for anyone, especially for a member of Congress."
Video from Berman:
The Sherman campaign later posted several seconds from earlier in the event and a release saying that Berman "began yelling that Sherman was a liar and delusional....then went over to Sherman’s table and confronted Sherman nose to nose." Sherman added a personal statement of regret:
The Pierce College debate was not conducted at the highest level. I regret my part in allowing emotions distract from the exchange of views. I agree with Howard Berman’s closing statement at the Thursday debate:
‘We are in a heated and expensive race. It’s become a very emotional race. We [each] think that when smears are made, and when untruths are said, a person has to defend himself and that raises the intensity of debate.’”
Video from Sherman:
Added: Jewish Journal reporter Jonah Lowenfeld was there and says the actual phrase Sherman used was, "Howard, you want to get into this?” He has the backstory on what the two candidates were arguing about. Says the debate organizer: "“I didn’t know they hated each other so much."
The Daily News was there too and quotes the rival campaign consultants.