A Day in the Life of Chasing Charlie Rangel

Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) is pursued by reporters and photographers after unexpectedly leaving his House of Representatives ethics committee hearing in the Longworth House Office Building November 15, 2010 in Washington, DC. Rangel claimed that the proceeding was unfair because the subcommittee did not allow him time to hire a laywer or look over the evidence against him. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Charlie Rangel
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Aside from covering the news and the nuts and bolts of this story, there's an entirely different side to our coverage, dedicated simply to tracking embattled Congressman Charles Rangel's every move.

By 7:45 a.m. this morning, journalists were already lined up outside the committee room hoping to get one of the few prized seats inside the room. Other journalists snaked along the hallway with cameras, prepared to wait more than an hour just to get a 10-second shot of Rangel entering the room where his colleagues would consider the 13 charges of ethics violations against him.

An hour later, most of the seats inside the hearing room were filled with journalists, video cameras and still photographers. By 9:10 a.m., as though trumpets were signaling his arrival, the clicking sounds of dozens of cameras filled the room as Rangel weaved his way toward his lonely seat inside the committee room. Before him sat a name tag, a single bottle of water and a large document, which he thumbed uncomfortably as photographers continued to snap away.

Shortly after 9:40 a.m., Rangel departed the hearing room to a swarm of reporters whose only job was to chase him down the narrow hallways to make sure they did not miss a single shot or that crucial soundbite. The 80-year-old congressman's only protection from the blinding flashes and the spear-like microphones that surrounded him was his Chief of Staff George Henry, who had to push certain members of the press back to clear way for Rangel.

Congressional buildings are considered public spaces, so there is little restriction on where or how the press can move about -- so members of Congress can essentially be chased by the press down any hallway and even inside certain elevators. There was no exception for Rangel, who's a veteran and accustomed to the chaos. Rather than shooing away the mob of reporters, he put on his trademark smile and made his way carefully down the hall.

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After leaving the hearing room, Rangel made his way to his office at the adjacent Rayburn building only to find another group of reporters and photographers poised ready to greet him. Once he entered his office, we stood down and resumed our positions along the hallway, many fortunate enough to have a chair, others having to sit on the marble floor. The first positions to go are generally next the few prized power outlets that line the third floor. Having power means you can juice up your computer to pass time as you wait for the congressman's next move.

A few hours later around 3 p.m., Rangel finally surfaced and the frenzy began anew. We scrambled to our feet, grabbed our cameras and ran down the hall after him. One photographer nearly tripped over an American flag in the hallway. With very little to say, Rangel soon disappeared into his only public sanctuary, the elevators. Panting journalists stumbled back to their positions outside his office when suddenly, minutes later, it was off to the races as the soup-wielding congressman appeared at the far end of the lonely hallway. Rangel walked toward the wall of press backpedaling in front of him, saying very little before ducking once again into his office.

It has been almost 9 hours into the stakeout and many here are starting to grow weary, wondering if the elder Rangel will outlast the few of us who remain dedicated to the beat. Only time will tell...


Fernando Suarez is a digital journalist for CBS News. Read more of his Hotsheet posts here.

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