The Republican candidate for Ohio's U.S. Senate seat, state Treasurer Josh Mandel, said that a tracker for a Democratic super PAC, made "physical contact" first during an incident in an elevator last week.
Mandel, who is challenging Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), said during an event Tuesday that he and Joe Vardon, a Columbus Dispatch reporter, both remember Mandel grabbing the tracker's video camera, but that the tracker recalls it differently. The tracker, identified as Tyler Hansen, 24, works for American Bridge 21st Century and follows Mandel around the state with a video camera for the group.
"Joe and I have a different recollection [than Hansen]," Mandel said Tuesday in remarks captured on video by Dix newspaper chain. "[Hansen] made initial physical contact which is inappropriate."
In the video, captured on Hansen's camera last Friday and released via YouTube Monday, Hansen is seen following Mandel, a Tea Party favorite, into the elevator. Mandel shouts Hansen's first name prior to moving to another part of an elevator car at the Rhodes State Office Tower in Columbus. Mandel appears to grab the camera, but withdraws after Hansen asks him to stop. Mandel then introduces Hansen and Vardon, who is also on the elevator, while working on his Blackberry. After Mandel and Vardon exit the elevator, Hansen and an unidentified woman can be heard discussing the incident; the woman says that she saw Mandel grab Hansen's camera.
Vardon published an account of the incident Saturday as part of an article about Mandel that portrayed the incident differently than Mandel described Tuesday. He wrote that Mandel grabbed the camera, but Hansen never grabbed Mandel. Mandel did not say Tuesday if Vardon -- who was at Tuesday's event -- had discussed the incident with him.
The Columbus Dispatch reported Tuesday that Hansen denied Mandel's accusation and Mandel's spokesman, Travis Considine, accused Hansen of chasing Mandel into the elevator.
The Dispatch reports:
[Hansen said:] “What I don't understand, though, is why Mr. Mandel would stand in front of the media and blatantly lie about a 24-year old. The truth is that Mr. Mandel approached me, tried to grab and twist my camera. I asked him to stop, and thankfully he did. That's the way I remember it happening and what my camera footage shows.”
It is also what Vardon witnessed.
Asked if Mandel misspoke at Tuesday’s press conference, and if not, for a further account of the contact, Mandel campaign spokesman Travis Considine said: “The video shows our opponents’ tracker chasing Treasurer Mandel down the hall before jumping into the elevator with him, at which time the treasurer greeted him and introduced him to the reporter.”
Considine could not be reached for immediate comment about Tuesday's speech. Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Andrew Zucker was quick to jump on Mandel.
"Despite the Columbus Dispatch's initial story that was followed by irrefutable video evidence of Josh Mandel physically intimidating an opposition staffer and grabbing his camera in a public place, Mandel's inability to tell the truth has caused him to inexplicably lie about the exchange," Zucker said in a statement. "It's not possible to express in words just how out-of-touch with reality Josh Mandel has become as his campaign of unending dishonesty continues throughout Ohio."
Mandel also used Tuesday's remarks to praise the work of trackers, saying they are doing their job. Mandel cited two trackers who were following him Tuesday. The elevator incident occurred a day after Mandel's 35th birthday.
Mandel has had a history of run-ins with Ohio reporters. In June, he called Ted Hart, a reporter for NBC 4 in Columbus, "out of touch with reality" when Hart questioned Mandel's truthfulness regarding Brown's Senate record.
Mandel and American Bridge have a turbulent history. Last month, the group threatened to sue Mandel for failing to respond to record requests from the group to the state treasurer's office. Plunderbund, a liberal blog in Ohio, sued Mandel last month over records requests issues.
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