At any given moment on the Hill, there’s a time for selfies and then there’s a time to be serious. Two of Sen. Mark Warner’s staff members (and their boss) learned the hard way just which mood comedian Jon Stewart and his friends were in on Wednesday.
Stewart spent much of his day roaming the halls of Congress with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and a group of first responders to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacks to push for an extension of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act, sponsored by Gillibrand, before federal benefits expire at the end of the month.
The Stewart who showed up on the Hill, using his celebrity as the former host of the much beloved “The Daily Show” to bolster an issue, wasn’t necessarily in a selfie state of mind. But that didn’t stop two staffers from Warner’s office from asking for a picture as the comedian and co. walked the Russell Senate Office Building.
“Who are you?” asked John Feal, a demolition supervisor at Ground Zero and founder of the FealGood Foundation, as the pair approached. “Whose office do you work for?”
Feal, a decidedly brusque native New Yorker, had a specific litmus test for photos with his pal Jon: “No selfies if you’re not on the bill.” When he asked if Warner (D) was a co-sponsor, the staffers answered yes, the photo was snapped and Stewart and co. went along their merry way.
But then a Gillibrand staffer nearby corrected the record. Turns out Warner was not a co-sponsor on the bill, and Feal was incensed.
“Then John starts yelling down the hall, ‘No [expletive] way! I can’t believe you [expletive] lied just to get a picture with Jon Stewart!'” recalled the Gillibrand staffer. By that time the two Warner staffers had retreated back to the safe confines of their boss’s office.
There was a silver lining, though. After about five minutes, says our source from Gillibrand’s office, the team got an e-mail from Warner’s camp. The senator from Virginia wanted to co-sponsor the bill.
Our first responders answered the call of duty when our nation was under attack. Proud to sign on today as a co-sponsor to #renew911health.
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) September 16, 2015
“Our office had reached out a few times,” said our Gillibrand source, “and never got a response.” That is until selfies got involved.
But a spokesman from Warner’s office told the tale a little differently. This was “not a thing,” the spokesman said. Warner had always intended to co-sponsor the bill, and when the office heard Feal yell, they were immediately alerted to that fact that they hadn’t yet informed Gillibrand of Warner’s support.
“It was really kind of a right hand, left hand thing,” said the Warner source.