Sen. Hatch 'Mortified' He Nearly Hit Pedestrian
Updated, 5:10 p.m. ET
At the tail end of a nasty summer thunderstorm Tuesday evening, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) nearly plowed down a woman in a crosswalk on Capitol Hill.
A Sleuth reader who saw the incident yesterday says Hatch "grazed" the unidentified woman with his beige Cadillac. "He hit her but she is OK," the source, who wished to remain anonymous, said.
Hatch, in a telephone interview with the Sleuth this morning, said he doesn't believe he actually hit or even grazed the pedestrian. But he acknowledged she "jumped back" and was "very upset."
"I was mortified," Hatch said. "I didn't see her at all."
The pedestrian had her umbrella up, and seemed to come out of nowhere in the intersection of 1st and C Streets NE as Hatch was leaving the Senate Hart office building. Hatch said was "drifting through the intersection very slowly" when "all of a sudden, I saw this umbrella."
The 75-year-old senator stayed in his car and rolled down the window to speak to the woman, who he thought recognized him, though he couldn't be sure. He didn't identify himself as Sen. Hatch. But, he said, he "apologized profusely."
"I said, 'I didn't see you. I'm so sorry,'" he said, adding, "She seemed OK. I felt really badly about it."
The Utah Republican powerhouse says he drove home and made a courtesy call to the Capitol Police to report what had happened. (Always a smart move, especially for a politician, since eyewitnesses and informants in Washington seem to be everywhere.)
The Capitol Police have no record of a report of the incident, according to a Capitol Police spokeswoman, which suggests the woman Hatch nearly ran over never called the police about it. Senate Sgt. at Arms Terrance Gainer, who oversees the Capitol Police, tells the Sleuth that since "there's no evidence of damage and no one was hurt," police will take no action.
Gainer says there was no reason for Hatch to call the police last night but that he did so "out of an abundance of caution." The matter, Gainer says, has been put to rest since the woman in the crosswalk hasn't come forward.
Hatch, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, certainly had a lot on his mind yesterday as he left work. He had expressed frustration with the quick timing of the hearing schedule that Democrats set for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. (He had fumed to reporters that the process was "being rigged and rushed for no apparent reason other than that the majority can do so.")
Hatch's driving ability -- or at least his ability to test drive a hybrid Hummer -- was lampooned last month by the Post's Dana Milbank, who wrote, "Those standing on Delaware Avenue NE outside the Capitol yesterday afternoon probably have no idea how close they came to witnessing a tragedy."
As for yesterday's near-miss, Hatch tells us he'd like to find out who the mystery pedestrian is. "If you get her name please let me know, I'd like to personally apologize."
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