Dean To News Media: Get A Life

Democratic presidential hopeful former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, right, speaks with Ruth White, left, Director of the Iowa Department of Human Rights, and Kimberly Baxter, center, with the Iowa Commission on Status of African Americans, at the State of Iowa 15th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ceremony in Des Moines, Iowa, Monday, Jan. 19, 2004. AP

By David Paul Kuhn
CBSNews.com Chief Political Writer

At an event meant to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a stern if not angry Howard Dean, told the news media to "get a new life."

With the start of the Iowa Caucus only hours away, the former Vermont governor arrived at the Iowa Historical Museum for the State of Iowa King remembrance.

Dean, who was not scheduled as one of the speakers, arrived with the national and local media waiting. The event had been posted on the media roster by his campaign.

After Dean's bus pulled in at about 10:30 a.m., he circled the large building, just blocks from the golden-domed capital, as hordes of press and orange-capped Dean "storm troopers" followed in tow in the subfreezing weather.

When Dean finally made his way into the building, chaos ensued - although nothing out of the ordinary for the kick off of a closely contested caucus race.

"Dean came here and he was hoping that his henchmen would get the job done," said 26-year-old Seville Lee, who heads a mentoring program for at-risk youth in Des Moines. "He thought he was going to speak."

"I'm offended that Dean would even try and do this," said Lee, who organized a children's play that day in honor of King. "He wasn't scheduled to speak.

"If he wanted to come he could go sit down like everyone else."

After Dean entered the packed auditorium with a mostly black audience of about 300 people, the former Iowa front-runner took a seat in the front row for about five minutes.

Photographers and camera crews followed, positioning themselves at the foot of the stage. A clearly perturbed Dean sat through the flashes, but soon walked up on stage and had a discussion with local organizers.

A while later he exited the auditorium, making a beeline to the front entrance and to his bus. Wedging through the media, he stopped at the front step before boarding the bus to answer a reporter's question about how he was feeling.

"You know why I wasn't able to attend this event," Dean said, "because you guys are behaving so badly you've got to get a new life."

Upbraiding the media, Dean told the press: "I'm feeling great, we're going to win but you guys got to behave yourselves out of respect for Dr. King."

Blaming the media for the commotion of his arrival, Dean refused to answer any more questions.

"Dean did not come there to speak," Dean's national spokesman Jay Carson later said. "He came there to pay his respects, and he felt that the crush of the press was distracting and not showing the respect that Dr. King deserves."

Organizers were left confused and frustrated, as the bulk of the media quickly followed Dean out of the auditorium.

"I think it was very disrespectful," said Donna Graves, who was on the planning committee for the commemoration ceremony. "The intent of today was not to look at Howard Dean.

"The planning committee didn't know he was coming as we invited a lot of people. It was very hectic and this is a day that is supposed to be about Martin Luther King."
  • Jaime Holguin

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