Joe Miller: That blogger who got arrested followed me into the bathroom

This story makes me nervous, not because I doubt Miller’s version but because watching Carl Paladino implode in the gubernatorial race here reminds me that voters will tolerate unpredictability in a newbie candidate only so much before they start bugging out. Miller may be a rock star among grassroots righties, but according to PPP, his favorable rating in Alaska is 35/58. Hopefully this is a one-day story, but given the poll trends towards Murkowski lately, it comes at a bad time. Two clips for you here, one from Fox News in which he describes allegedly being followed into the bathroom by blogger Tony Hopfinger and the other from CNN in which he says security did the right thing in detaining the guy. Here’s what the security team told Real Clear Politics:

William Fulton, who owns the Anchorage-based DropZone Security, handcuffed Tony Hopfinger, the editor of The Alaska Dispatch, after he said that Hopfinger was “sticking his chest out and kind of pushing up against Joe” as the journalist pursued the candidate through the hallways of Central Middle School where the public event was being held…

Fulton said that Hopfinger continued to pursue Miller and pushed another town hall attendee into a locker, at which point Fulton handcuffed Hopfinger and called the Anchorage Police…

Fulton said that his private security company has been working with Miller since 2007 or 2008. DropZone security guards were on hand to protect Miller at the 2008 Alaska GOP convention when Miller tried unsuccessfully to oust state party chairman Randy Ruedrich, who famously resigned from the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in 2003 after Sarah Palin exposed him for conducting partisan political activity from his state office and leaking a confidential memo to an energy company lobbyist.

Both Fulton and Miller say that the school required them to have security present, but the Murkowski and McAdams campaigns told RCP that they’ve never been asked to provide their own security during an event at a school. As for the claim that Hopfinger pushed someone who was there, there’s no doubt about it: Watch this clip and you’ll see Hopfinger himself admit to it. (“It wasn’t like he bounced.”) On the other hand, this video shot by the Anchorage Daily News on the scene after Hopfinger was detained shows that he wasn’t the only reporter there whom security was anxious to eject. As far as I know, the ADN cameraman didn’t push anyone and yet they’re on him pretty tight.

Let’s get some expert testimony on this. Remember when someone in Martha Coakley’s campaign pushed Weekly Standard reporter John McCormack when he was up in Boston trying to ask her questions during the Scott Brown race? J-Mack’s take:

Given my experience with political campaigns calling the police on me and shoving me to keep me from asking questions, a few people have asked me for my personal opinion on the matter. So, let me stipulate: following a politician and asking the politician questions as he leaves an event is perfectly normal. On Capitol Hill, it’s what happens at the end of every Nancy Pelosi press conference and every Tuesday Senate policy luncheon.

Common manners dictate that there are at least a couple things reporters shouldn’t do, such as blocking a candidate’s movement or following the candidate into the bathroom–Joe Miller accused Hopfinger of doing both those things. Still, you can’t justify handcuffing a reporter for this out-of-line behavior.

But Fulton, the security guard, says that Hopfinger “shoulder checked” an attendee…

I don’t know about “shoulder checked,” but as noted, there appears to be no question that Hopfinger pushed someone. In fact, in the CNN clip, Miller calls it “assaultive” and “over the top.” Hopfinger’s video tape might clarify everything, but according to McCormack, a security guard supposedly erased evidence of the incident — and Hopfinger refuses to give the camera to police to see if they can recover the footage. Hmmm. Sounds like the perfect lead-in to tonight’s Alaska senatorial debate, hosted by Alaska Dispatch — which happens to be the blog edited by, er, Tony Hopfinger. What could go wrong?

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