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Video of Douglass smacking GOP staffer's camera causes a row

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Posted: Thursday, August 23, 2012 9:41 pm | Updated: 3:38 pm, Tue Jan 22, 2013.

A video of Democratic congressional candidate John Douglass smacking a GOP staffer’s video camera with rolled-up paper lit up conservative blogs Thursday and drew a rebuke from Rep. Robert Hurt’s campaign.

The Hurt campaign suggested the incident shows a lack of “professionalism” and “respect” on the part of Douglass, while the Douglass campaign said the Republicans were “ginning up a right-wing hissy fit.”

The 8-second YouTube video shows Douglass conferring with voters at a campaign event in Farmville, then swatting the camera and saying: “Hey, these are private. These are private. Get outta here.”

The cameraman, a Hurt staffer who was tracking Douglass, responds: “It’s a public event.”

Hurt Campaign Manager Sean Brown said the staffer had been given permission to film in the building and acted with “utmost professionalism and respect.”

“Mr. Douglass, on the other hand, did not show any professionalism or respect for the public’s right to know where he stands on critical issues when he chose to strike the camera operator’s camera,” Brown said in a written statement. “The real question is what are Mr. Douglass and his campaign trying to hide?”

“Instead of ginning up a right-wing hissy fit over a camera bump, Corporate Congressman Robert Hurt’s campaign should back off their spying on one-on-one conversations,” Douglas spokesman Chase Winder said in a written statement. “Voters who are upset over his campaign’s invasion of privacy say it’s ‘horrible,’ ‘skulking’ and ‘poor taste. …’”

Hurt, R-Chatham, is hoping to fend off a challenge from Douglass in an increasingly nasty race in the 5th District.

Douglass has accused Hurt of standing to reap personal financial gain from a proposed uranium mine in Hurt’s hometown of Chatham, a charge Hurt has denied. The Douglass campaign and Democratic-aligned veterans’ groups also accused Hurt of turning a blind eye to comments made by conservative radio host Rob Schilling, who called Douglass, a retired Air Force brigadier general, an “empty uniform” and a “chickenhawk.”

Douglass has also lambasted Hurt for not showing up to the first two debates of the election cycle, though the Hurt campaign has said it has committed at least one joint appearance in October.

Assigning trackers to document an opponent’s appearances is a fairly common practice in electoral politics.

The Douglass campaign acknowledged that it also assigns a tracker to record Hurt’s public remarks, but insisted that Hurt’s tracking was spilling over into invading people’s privacy.

Former Gov. George Allen’s 2006 campaign for U.S. Senate was famously derailed when he referred to an Indian-American tracker working for his Democratic opponent as “macaca,” a term that was perceived by some as a racial slur.

On Thursday, political blogs on both ends of the spectrum weighed in Douglass’s camera swat.

“[J]ust because something’s a ‘public event’ doesn’t mean you can videotape a private conversation,” read a post on the liberal blog Blue Virginia.

“If a Republican had done this or, God forbid, a tea party supporter, it would have been national news,” read a post on Virginia conservative blog Bearing Drift.

Douglass is scheduled to appear at an event in Charlottesville on Friday with Democratic Party of Virginia Chairman Brian Moran and Del. David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, as part of a “Road to Charlotte” tour ahead of the national political conventions.