The guerilla videographer, or “tracker,” is now an essential member of every campaign team. His job: follow an opposing candidate around and try to film him doing something stupid, preferably to the videographer himself.
In 2004, Barack Obama had his own tracker, who even followed him into the bathroom. Obama finally dealt with the young man by leading him into the Capitol press room and introducing him to reporters as “my stalker.”
The greatest tracker, of course, was S.R. Sidarth, an Indian-American who worked for Virginia Senate candidate Jim Webb. Sen. George Allen introduced Sidarth to a crowd as “Macaca.” That word changed the course of history. Allen lost the election, and any chance at the Republican nomination for president.
Wednesday night, on the roof of another Washington apartment house, an anonymous dude with a video camera was filming a small, private fundraiser for Giannoulias when a guest approached and told him, “This party is private tonight. Get off this part.”
When the videographer protests that “this is a public space for the people who live here,” he’s dragged away by several men.
“You’re gonna drag me out of this place just like this?” he cries.
Throughout the video, Giannoulias is seen chatting with a supporter, seemingly unaware of the confrontation.
Needless to say, the one-minute clip was uploaded to YouTube, where it’s been viewed over 6,000 times.
The Giannoulias campaign says the manhandlers were guests, not campaign staffers, and is suggesting the confrontation was a stunt provoked by a partisan cameraman.
“Silly season has officially begun as this was clearly a politically orchestrated stunt, the kind that has become all too regular an occurrence in political campaigns,” Giannoulias spokeswoman Kathleen Strand said. “Our campaign staff, which were not involved in this video, are always respectful and polite to Mark Kirk’s trackers when they attend our events and that will continue to be our policy.”
(Kirk spokesman Kirsten Kukowski says the videographer was not connected to the Kirk campaign.)
After the incident, the National Republican Senatorial Committee issued a memo noting that “this physical confrontation took place less than 72 hours after Democrat [sic] Congressman Bob Ethridge [sic] was recorded grabbing a placing a chokehold on another videographer.” The memo goes on to instruct campaigns not “to be either verbally abusive to or make physical contact with a videographer,” warning of the legal -- and political -- consequences.
It’s not bad that politicians have to worry that everything they say and do will end up on YouTube. But both sides showed some really bad manners here. If you’re told to leave private party, leave. And if you can’t shoo an unwelcome guest from your party, call security. Don’t push him around -- especially if he’s holding a camera.