Disgraceful Behavior in Congress

by Jeff Sovern

Here are two accounts of yesterday's testimony by Elizabeth Warren before a House oversight committee: one by the Times and the other in the Huffington Post. Both describe the fireworks at the end of the hearing when Representative McHenry, Republican of South Carolina, essentially called Professor Warren a liar when she said she had to leave because of a prior commitment and that she had been promised she would be done by 2:15. The HuffPo story reports how the Republican questioners repeatedly got their facts wrong and includes a video of the contretemps at the end, which is worth watching.

My own opinion is that McHenry owes Professor Warren an apology, but it obviously will not be forthcoming. Even if McHenry believed that his staff had not made an agreement with Professor Warren, which is what he purported to believe, the appropriate thing for him to do was to acknowledge a misunderstanding, rather than saying she was making things up. Even if Professor Warren was a liar--something I do not believe--why would she lie about something so easily verified and so trivial? Espcially since doing so would not get her out of answering questions at a later date. Indeed, she offered to answer questions later. It's notable that McHenry's later statement (at least the part which is quoted in the stories; I looked for the statement on McHenry's web site but couldn't find it) does not repeat the claim that no agreement was made. Nor is it honest enough to acknowledge a mistake on his part or apologize; instead, it offers further criticism of Professor Warren. Remember President Bush's campaign promise that he would restore civility to Washington? McHenry seems not to. Shame on him.