Video shows lawmakers dancing on NC house floor

Video shows lawmakers dancing on NC house floor

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by BEN THOMPSON / NBC Charlottte

Bio | Follow: @BenTNews | Email

WCNC.com

Posted on July 31, 2013 at 8:09 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 1 at 4:26 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A video posted online claims to show Republican lawmakers doing a victory dance on the North Carolina House floor following their legislative wins. As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, more than 80,000 had viewed the clip online.

The headline on the CNN iReport reads “NC House Dances with Joy over its Accomplishments,” and is accompanied by an editorial criticizing lawmakers, and concludes, “show a little consideration and do your victory dance in private.”  The YouTube video comes with the title, “North Carolina’s House; Party like it’s 1959.”

The video shows a man and woman dancing, while another woman plays a fiddle.  But readers might find the headlines and descriptions of the clip misleading. 

“I can tell you in my seven years at the legislature, I've never seen dancing or live music on the house floor,” said Rep. Tricia Cotham, Democrat from Mecklenburg County.

Cotham says she had stepped out of the chamber during the break, and missed the dancing.  She was surprised when the video surfaced online. She’s quick to call the behavior inappropriate, but she doesn’t think it was victory lap for Republicans.

“I don't think it’s a partisan issue, I just think it’s bad decision making,” she said.

The Mecklenburg County Representative says the jubilation probably reflected relief that the session was nearly over.  The man in the video is Rep. Phil Shepard, Republican of Onslow County.  But his female dancer partner is a non-partisan House clerk, and the musician is a former house aide who’s played on the House floor in the past.

Cotham says she understands how people could be offended by the video, after a contentious session that received national attention.

“So much had occurred in the last 2 weeks of session, with people losing unemployment benefits, looking at very restrictive rights on women's reproductive rights, to massive education cuts, laying off teachers, and teacher assistants. And for the public to see lawmakers and staff of the general assembly ‘getting down’ on the house floor, I don't think that sends a very good message,” said Cotham.

The Office of the House Speaker issued a statement to NBC Charlotte, playing down the controversy.

“Unfortunately, this event is being taken out of context for partisan reasons.  This was nothing more than an accomplished musician performing for a few minutes as she has for the past several sessions.  It was not a celebration of policies; it was artistic ability being appreciated by members of both parties, and it was actually one of the brighter moments this session.  It looks to me like someone is just “fiddling” around with the facts, and that’s disappointing,” said Jordan Shaw, communication director for Thom Tillis, Republican of Mecklenburg County.

NBC Charlotte tried to contact the woman who shot the video, but didn’t receive a response.   CNN’s iReport Web site says after the video was uploaded, the iReporter acknowledged the dancing and music didn’t appear to be in response to a particular bill.

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