Tampa Paper Tampers with Town Hall Story

August 7th, 2009 1:07 PM

Blogs on both sides of the political aisle exploded last night, as first reports rolled in about a union event breaking out at a fight. That’s an exaggeration, of course.  However, here are the facts, as far as we’re able to tell.

Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) scheduled a last-minute town hall meeting for yesterday evening, essentially tagging along on Florida State Rep. Betty Reed’s (D) already-scheduled town hall meeting.  This meeting was also officially hosted by the Service Employees international Union, a highly politically active union that is a reliable ally of liberal Democratic politicians.  Between RedState.com and conservative talk-radio king Rush Limbaugh, local conservative activists found out about this meeting and decided to crash the party.

The first reports came in through the Tampa Bay local media, depicting a rowdy town hall meeting interrupted by conservative activists demanding to be heard.  This was a fairly straightforward story which contained simple quotes and facts, written by one William March.  There was one quote which was particularly intriguing:

Asked earlier today about possible disruption at the event, Kim Diehl of SEIU said, "We're prepared. We have strategies to deal with it if it should come up."
How Orwellian.

This quote did not appear in the updated version of the story.  That’s important, and for this reason:
One of those involved in a scuffle, Randy Arthur, of Oldsmar said he was injured by those manning the doors and said he would file a police report.

He and his wife, Kathy, were outside the meeting room when organizers tried to close the doors. Randy Arthur and others tried to stop them "and he didn't give up,'' Kathy Arthur said.

Randy Arthur, who owns an air conditioning service company, later talked to police officers, his knit shirt ripped and a few scratches visible on his chest. "They slammed him into the wall,'' Kathy Arthur said.
A conservative activist got roughed up by organizers of the town meeting – either Betty Reed (unlikely) or...SEIU goons.  One wonders if the strategy Diehl spoke of was to systematically and forcibly deny people entry to the event.

Last, but not least in the bias department, is this picture by Chris Zuppa for St. Petersburg Times.

The caption identifies the woman as Karen Miracle, who is caught shoving one Barry Osteen. Osteen was apparently debating Miracle’s husband, Garry, on the issue of health care.  The caption does not identify Karen and Garry as the treasurer and political director, respectively, of the East Hillsborough County Democratic Club.  An additional photograph of this incident is currently at the top of the Drudge Report.

As you can see, Osteen is wearing neither uniform nor swastika-adorned armband.

For videos of this and other town hall protests, visit Eyeblast.tv’s channel devoted to the Recess Town Halls.