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So, who were the young men hassled by Bob Etheridge?

We still don't know. I have asked program managers at several conservative organizations whether they know the identities of the two people in this video who say they are "students ... working on a project" and who are rewarded for their inquisitiveness by being manhandled by Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-N.C.).

And since I'm getting a ton of e-mail on this: I don't condone what Etheridge did at all, in any way. It was disgraceful. If he had a problem with fielding a simple question from a young man who didn't want to identify himself, he should have walked away, not grabbed his arm.

That said, we can't determine what will happen to Etheridge -- whether, for example, the young man will file a complaint against him -- because we don't know who these "students" are. (I use the quotes because the people in the video use that word to identify themselves, and we can't confirm whether it's accurate.) Robert Stacy McCain talks to a conservative operative who explains who or what kind of activists the "students" might be.

The operative, who has been responsible for numerous undercover ("black ops") political projects, compared the two students to a military "hunter-killer team" -- the tandem of a sniper and a spotter. The operative did not want to disclose the tactics and strategy of such projects, but said that we can expect to see more video confrontations during what Mike Flynn of predicts will be a "long hot summer." ... It is unlikely that the students involved in the Etheridge incident will claim responsibility, my conservative operative source suggests, because doing so would expose them to reprisals by staffers for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

This is actually a bit unusual in Washington. Politicians can expect journalists or political operatives, some armed with cameras, to occasionally lie in wait for them outside fundraisers. Sometimes they strike gold, as when Republican trackers captured video of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley exiting a lobbyist fundraiser (damaging enough on its own) and one of the then-Senate candidate's aides accidentally pushing reporter John McCormack over a railing. (The aide apologized to McCormack.) But it's something else to ask the people with the cameras who they are and get nonanswers about "students" and "projects." This is why I originally asked who "TMZ'd" Etheridge, as that gossip site often posts videos from people who identify themselves, to celebrities, as "fans," without revealing their names or their plans to post the videos they take.

By David Weigel  |  June 14, 2010; 2:40 PM ET
Categories:  Media  
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