OC Rep. Dana Rohrabacher Gets Testy About Reporters' Russia Questions After Tour Of ICE Facility, Invokes 'Fake News' Charge
IRVINE (CBSLA) — Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher lashed out at reporters Friday when asked about his relationship with a Russian lobbyist currently under federal investigation, saying they should be "ashamed" of the line of inquiry.
Rohrabacher was in Irvine touring a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility when reporters asked him about his involvement with suspected covert Russian agent Maria Butina. She is in federal custody accused of trying to infiltrate U.S. pro-gun lobbying groups on behalf of the Kremlin.
"There's no conditions, you can ask whatever you want," the Huntington Beach representative told a reporter before the conversation turned confrontational.
When a reporter asked him about a 2015 meeting with Butina his office confirmed to the OC Register, he retorted, "I think you should be ashamed of yourself for trying to divert attention onto another," before some crosstalk.
"Wait a minute. Don't argue with me," he said as he pointed to the journalist. "Are you up here doing the press conference?"
After asking who the man represented, Rohrabacher continued, "They teach you [...] to not let someone make his case and interrupt him? Is that what they teach you? Is that what they teach you?Wait a minute.[...] You don't get a chance to argue with me."
Reporters persisted with questions about the investigation rather than the questions on immigration Rohrabacher said he was there to discuss.
"You could ask me whatever you want, and you can ask a follow-up question if you want, but you don't interrupt the guy," Rohrabacher said before he accused the reporters of what has become Donald Trump's and some Republicans' go-to criticism of the media.
"That shows you the type of arrogance that I'm talking about. You're gonna get a story about Russia rather than the security of our country at our borders because that's what you wanna do. I don't have to go along with that today," Rohrabacher said, seemingly less irate.
"You're not going to be the one who determines how long my answer is, alright? This is the type of thing, this is the arrogance of the news media [...] why the public understands when he says 'fake news' — that's what the public understands."
Rohrabacher ended the press conference without answering any questions on the Russia matter or immigration. He is a staunch supporter of the president and called this week's indictment of Butina "bogus" and "stupid," the Register reported.
He doubled down on that sentiment Friday.
"By trying to draw attention to what I consider to be a bogus issue, nowhere is that bogus issue being more proven than the fact that we have members of the press wanna focus on that, rather than people whose lives are in danger because we don't have control of our border," Rohrabacher said. "I'm not hiding from anybody, but you guys should be ashamed of yourselves for trying to divert attention away from an honest issue like this."
The congressman of nearly 30 years is no stranger to controversy.
He is a climate change denier who has blamed dinosaur flatulence for the phenomenon and has called the acceptance of climate science "a Stalinist tactic."
In May, Rohrabacher lost the endorsement of a large real estate trade group for saying people should be allowed to refuse selling their homes to gays and lesbians if they don't agree with the prospective buyers' lifestyles.
The 15-term incumbent faces a tough battle to keep his seat for California's 48th District from Democrat Harley Rouda.
Rouda, who is in a dead heat with Rohrabacher, told CBS2 the congressman's outburst was not appropriate for the position he holds.
"The fact that Rohrabacher went off on a journalist in the way he did, shows a complete lack of respect for how important the media is to our country," said Rouda at his home. "His losing his temper and his reaction is not what we want to see in a member of the House of Representatives."
Rouda is just three points ahead of Rohrabacher, well within the poll's margin of error.
After it was revealed Rohrabacher came up in the Butina investigation, Rouda tweeted, "The full truth about Dana, Russia, [the NRA]...must be known."
In the tweet, Rouda mentions the pilot episode of Sacha Baron Cohen's new Showtime show "Who Is America," in which the comedian, in disguise, got Rohrabacher, several other elected representatives and pro-gun lobbyists to publicly support arming preschoolers with guns as part of the "Kinder-Guardians."
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