On Thursday’s Newsroom, CNN’s Rick Sanchez couldn’t get a straight answer out of Democratic Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee about her cell phone use during a recent health care town hall, and after he repeatedly asked why she did it and if it was disrespectful, the Texas Democrat bizarrely raised the possibility that the YouTube video of her on the phone was “doctored” [the entire interview can be viewed here; audio clips from the segment are available here].
Sanchez brought on the Jackson-Lee to ask her about the viral video of her phone use as a woman tried to ask her a question at the town hall. He first asked, “How do you explain what you were doing there? What were you thinking, Congresswoman?” For about a minute and a half, the Democrat filibustered by talking about her town hall appearances and the health care issue. The CNN anchor repeatedly tried to get her to answer his question. He asked again: “Why were you talking on the phone?” She continued by avoiding the issue, talking about the “congressional hotline” her office had set up on the health care proposal. Sanchez interrupted, “Congresswoman, you’re not being fair. I asked you a very specific question....The question is, why were you on the phone and was it disrespectful?”
Jackson-Lee plowed ahead about how she didn’t have the bill memorized, but Sanchez wasn’t having it: “Congresswoman, you’re absolutely ignoring my question. I don’t think that’s very nice.” The Democrat denied that she was, and so the anchor rephrased his question in a very parental fashion: “I say to my children it’s impolite to text- it’s wrong to be on the phone when you’re talking to people, and it’s rude to do that especially when you’re dealing with adults. Here you have people who have come to hear you speak. They are asking you a question, and it appears on the video like you’re not giving them their due. How do you explain that?”
The Representative replied, “I'm so glad you said that. It appears on the video. Maybe it’s a doctored video.” After going into another protracted explanation, Jackson-Lee hinted that the video was just a distraction from the health care issue: “My question to those who have YouTube- and I love YouTube- who’ve made an issue- are they concerned about health care reform? Are they concerned about a robust public option? Are they concerned about eliminating pre-existing diseases? All of that I talked about.”
After asking if the Democrat had apologized to the woman who was trying to ask her a question as she used her cell phone (and another extended “answer”), Sanchez followed up on her “doctored video” accusation: “Do you think the video was doctored? Do you think the video may have been doctored?” Jackson-Lee answered by specifically calling the cell phone issue a “distraction” from her priorities:
JACKSON-LEE: Let me say this- we who are members of congress who believe in democracy are not going to focus on distractions. We're really going to focus on giving the people the opportunity to express themselves in any way they desire-
SANCHEZ: Well- well, look at it. I mean- let’s- I’ll tell you what- let’s play it and you tell us if this is you or not you and if we’ve made a mistake by showing video- that may have been doctored- is there anything about this video that isn-t reflective of what happened?
JACKSON-LEE I know nothing about the video- I know nothing about the video, Rick, and I’m not going to comment on it.
Then why make the accusation in the first place, Representative?