Friday, March 17, 2006
Tancredo, colleague tussle in ugly spat After TV debate, epithets hurled
By Anne C. Mulkern Denver Post Staff Writer
The lawmakers disagree about exactly what happened during the spat Wednesday, but each tells a version that's pretty ugly. Each accused the other of threatening bodily harm.
"It was a very peculiar event, I certainly have to tell you," Tancredo said Thursday evening.
Tancredo, R-Littleton, and Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., sparred Wed nesday on the CNBC cable-TV channel about which version of immigration reform Congress should enact. Tancredo said that as they were removing their microphones afterward, Gutierrez noted that Tancredo had been late for the show and said, "The immigrant shows up on time. The gringo was late. I guess that's why we get the jobs."
Gutierrez's spokesman Scott Frotman agreed that his boss made that "little joke." Then the stories of what happened diverge.
Tancredo said Gutierrez began screaming obscenities at him, saying he should "kick his (expletive)" behind. But Frotman, who witnessed the incident, said Tancredo "was aggressive, hostile and threatening." "He had this wild-eyed look like a man ready to turn a television debate on the issue of immigration into a physical altercation," Frotman said, adding that Gutierrez did not swear.
The two lawmakers would normally refer to each other on the House floor as "the gentleman from Colorado" and "the gentleman from Illinois." Instead, Gutierrez called Tancredo a racist and a bigot, and Tancredo called Gutierrez a racist, Frotman said.
Tancredo heads a caucus that opposes any guest-worker program that gives what he calls amnesty to illegal immigrants. Gutierrez is a backer of a House bill to create such a guest-worker program.
After the "gringo" comment, Tancredo said, Gutierrez began screaming at him, asking such questions as, "Did you ever eat an orange? Have you ever eaten a grape?" Frotman said Gutierrez was trying to point out that Tancredo interacts with immigrants in everyday life. (Gutierrez was born in Illinois to parents from Puerto Rico.)
According to Frotman, Tancredo then stood in front of Gutierrez to block his path. He put his hand on Gutierrez's back, Frotman said, "to antagonize and provoke him." Tancredo said he put his hand on Gutierrez's shoulder, that it was not threatening, and that it was just part of the conversation they were having.
Tancredo said Gutierrez screamed, "Get your hands off of me" with more profanities. 'It was just completely beyond the pale the things he was yelling," Tancredo said. Neither plans to file any kind of official complaint.