Inventing tales of a union "beating"

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

The conservative blogosphere is absolutely atwitter with news that an activist was attacked by union thugs at a town hall meeting this week in St. Louis. It's the best the right-wing can do to deflect blame for unleashing mini-mobs on town hall forums: They did it!

The tale was first told in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Kenneth Gladney, 38, a conservative activist from St. Louis, said he was attacked by some of those arrested as he handed out yellow flags with "Don't tread on me" printed on them. He spoke to the Post-Dispatch from the emergency room at St. John's Mercy Medical Center, where he said he was awaiting treatment for injuries to his knee, back, elbow, shoulder and face. Gladney, who is black, said one of his attackers, also a black man, used a racial slur against him before the attack.

The newspaper had no witnesses, just Gladney's account. Then Gladney's attorney got involved and from conservatives' perspective, the tale got better and better:

He went to the ground. Subsequently, two other SEIU representatives or members, however you want to say it, jumped on top of him, yelled racial epithets at him...kicked him, punched him...He sustained some injuries to his back, some bruising.

And even better:

The SEIU member used a racial slur against Kenneth, then punched him in the face. Kenneth fell to the ground. Another SEIU member yelled racial epithets at Kenneth as he kicked him in the head and back. Kenneth was also brutally attacked by one other male SEIU member and an unidentified woman. The three men were clearly SEIU members, as they were wearing T-shirts with the SEIU logo.

Gladney was clearly beaten at length (it was "brutal"), and at least from this description, was lucky to survive with his life, right?

Mary Katharine Ham wrote up an especially excited write-up at The Weekly Standard about the vicious union thugs and how Gladney was severely beaten. The only mistake Ham made was including a YouTube clip of the incident; a clip that pretty much undercuts the entire tale of run-away union violence.

Go watch the YouTube video. (Or, the "shocking video," as Power Line hypes it.) The first thing you notice when the camera starts rolling is a union member already sprawled out on the ground with somebody standing over him. No explanation of how he got there (pushed, shoved, punched?) and Ham couldn't care less. Then yes, Gladney is pulled to the ground by somebody wearing a union shirt. (At the :06 mark.) But instead of Gladney being beaten and punched, as his attorney describes, and instead of union "thugs" standing over him and threatening him, Gladney bounces right back on his feet in approximately two seconds and the scuffle ends.

That was the savage "beating" the conservative blogosphere can't stop talking about?

The only real mystery from the incident is why Tea Party member Gladney, who's seen up-close after the brief encounter walking around and talking to people and who appears to be injury-free, then decided to go to the hospital to treat injuries to his "knee, back, elbow, shoulder and face." All that from a two-second fall to the pavement?

Also unclear is why he contacted a newspaper reporter, or why his attorney wrote up lavish accounts and sent them to conservative bloggers, or why Gladney and his attorney appeared on Fox News.

FYI, according to his attorney, Gladney plans on filing a civil lawsuit against the union.

UPDATED: The Hill erroneously reported that Gladney had been "hospitalized" after being "attacked." As you can see from the video, Gladney was not "hospitalized." (i.e. Rushed away by ambulance.) Instead, as the Post-Dispatch correctly reported, Gladney "said he sought hospital treatment."

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