Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Van Orden berated teenage pages, then took a bow, Rep. Pocan says
WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Derrick Van Orden, a Wisconsin Republican, took a bow after a highly publicized incident in July in which he cursed out a group of Senate pages taking photos in the Capitol rotunda, according to U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin Democrat.
Pocan told States Newsroom in an interview on Tuesday that he has reviewed security footage of the incident from two different angles. He said Van Orden had a group of about 15 people with him, and that there was another tour group present in the rotunda that left as soon as Van Orden started to yell at the teenagers.
Pocan said Van Orden approached the Senate pages, who were lying on the floor to take photos of the rotunda ceiling at night, but the pages jumped up immediately. Van Orden “walked over the rope area and continued to berate them,” Pocan said, then followed them as they were leaving.
“He walked back to his group and took sort of a curtsy bow to them,” Pocan said.
Van Orden said in a statement at the time the incident came to light that the students were disrespecting the rotunda’s history as a Civil War field hospital.
For those Senate pages, it was their last week on the job. Both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, rebuked Van Orden’s behavior at the time and thanked the pages for their work.
Pocan also released a statement on Monday criticizing Van Orden’s behavior.
“This video was bad and unbecoming of a Member of Congress,” Pocan said. “There is no way to prove Derrick was drunk, but this is not behavior a sober or sane person would do.”
Pocan said Van Orden “looked unbalanced” and “had belligerent hand gestures” while harassing the Senate pages. Van Orden “towered over” the pages, Pocan said.
“This was abusive behavior intended to frighten these pages,” Pocan said.
Van Orden’s actions “do not reflect Wisconsin values,” Pocan said, “and he owes each of the pages and his constituents an apology.”
The video footage will not be released due to the privacy and safety concerns of the pages and their families, according to the Pocan press release.
“We had asked to have the video released because it wasn’t passing the smell test” with Van Orden’s statements about the Senate pages disrespecting the Civil War history of the rotunda, Pocan told States Newsroom.
The teens’ parents reached out to Schumer with concerns about possible retribution by Republicans, Pocan said, so the footage will not be shared out of respect for those families.
Pocan said he had wanted to see the footage, as he “was being the eyes and ears for people in Wisconsin.”
Pocan said he has not spoken to Van Orden about the incident in person.
When asked for comment, a spokesperson at Van Orden’s office said, “Derrick Van Orden came to Congress to work for the people of Wisconsin’s Third Congressional District. Right now, he is laser-focused on making sure the government doesn’t shut down.”