WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON -- It started with a misunderstanding last week at a security checkpoint in the Longworth House Office Building, where guards regularly examine the identification and belongings of those entering.
But by yesterday, the encounter between U.S. Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney, a Georgia Democrat, and a Capitol Police officer - in which he touched her on the shoulder and she jabbed him with her cell phone - had begun to mushroom into a furor, replete with accusations of racial profiling and threats of criminal charges. Along the way, leaders of both political parties and federal law enforcement joined the fray.
The issue arose when McKinney stepped around the metal detector, as members of Congress are entitled to do. But she was not wearing the pin that identifies her as a member, and a guard tried to stop her.
McKinney acknowledged she was not wearing her pin but maintained the guard should have recognized a member's face, as Capitol Police often do, although it is not a requirement. Colleagues say McKinney had recently changed her hair style and suggest that might have led to a failure to recognize her.
In the House, Republicans pushed through a resolution applauding the the Capitol Police. "I think it's time that we show our support for them," said sponsor Rep. Patrick T. McHenry, a North Carolina Republican.
And the Justice Department, which handles local prosecutions in the District of Columbia, said it was considering criminal charges against McKinney.
One conservative blog, NewsByUs.com, gibed that McKinney was suffering from PTHD, post-traumatic hairstyle disorder.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, distanced herself from McKinney: "I think what happened last week was a very unfortunate incident. ... I don't think any of it justifies hitting a police officer."
Johanna Neuman and Nick Timiraos write for the Los Angeles Times.