The Washington Post

Cohen’s Lauper presser wasn’t the first of its kind

Rep. Steve Cohen during a news conference on Friday. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The spectacle might have been wacky, but it has precedent.

History is littered with examples of lawmakers holding news conferences to address embarrassing or strange issues. Basically, these are the kinds of events that give P.R. types nightmares.

Think of then-Rep. Anthony Weiner’s news conference in which he finally confessed (after previous denials) that the undie-clad man in a photograph he had tweeted was him. The circus-like event included lewd heckling and a cameo by conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, who commandeered the podium for nearly 15 minutes before the New York Democrat appeared.

And former GOP presidential nominee Mike Huckabee hosted an odd event in late 2007 when he scheduled a news conference to unveil an attack ad against his rival, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Huckabee arrived at the news conference only to announce that he wouldn’t be airing the ad — but then proceeded to show it to the assembled media anyway.

Reporters could be heard laughing.

And our favorite example isn’t a news conference, per se, but rather a public statement issued by a lawmaker’s office. The story, which our colleague Karen Tumulty recalled, goes like this: In 1994, Sen. Howell Heflin (D-Ala.) was dining with reporters in the Senate restaurant. As he spoke, he reached into his pocket for a hanky, but instead, pulled out a pair of women’s underwear.

Afterward, his office issued this statement, which might go down in history as the best congressional document ever (a copy of which Tumulty keeps as a souvenir): “I mistakenly picked up a pair of my wife’s white panties and put them in my pocket while I was rushing out the door to go to work. Rather than take a chance on being embarrassed again, I’m going to start buying colored handkerchiefs.”

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.


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