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Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 89, is not OK. The California Democrat missed weeks of Senate votes after contracting shingles, and that led to Ramsay Hunt syndrome, which can cause facial paralysis and hearing loss. She also suffered encephalitis, which is swelling of the brain.
When she finally returned to work two months after holing up in her California mansion, Feinstein was in a wheelchair. But she and her staff claim she’s just fine — and they’re going to great lengths to mask her real state of health.
On Wednesday, a staff photographer for the Los Angeles Times wrote that he was “shouted at” when he tried to photograph Feinstein.
“I photographed the senator as a staff member tried to hide her wheelchair behind a pillar at a low-profile exit last week. A Capitol Police officer shouted at me to move back — despite already being 30 feet away from the senator. Feinstein waved as she was escorted to a waiting vehicle,” photographer Kent Nishimura wrote.
The photographer also claimed Senate security is going to great lengths to protect Feinstein from the press.
“For two days in a row last week, the Senate sergeant-at-arms office has said her arrival at the Capitol ‘is closed press,’ shutting doors and using the Capitol police to chase journalists out of hallways and public spaces. This unprecedented act of restricting press freedom only raises more questions,” he said.
Nishimura wrote that since her return, Feinstein’s “staff’s efforts to protect” her from the media have “ratcheted up.”
“(H)er staff have used every trick in the book to stay out of sight and at a distance from the press,” he wrote. “In committee meetings, her public remarks have been limited and she is always surrounded by staff. They also often form a human barrier between her and the press corps, with one staffer pushing her wheelchair while others shout at photographers to move out of the way.”
One member of her protective bubble is Nancy Corinne Prowda, the eldest daughter of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). “Since Feinstein returned to Washington, I’ve found myself regularly watching as Prowda runs interference and shields the senator from reporters, sometimes placing herself between them,” Nishimura wrote.
And her staff has figured out a way to keep the press from Feinstein. “These days, the senator is escorted on paths to and from the Senate chamber, where cameras aren’t allowed. POLITICO reported that her office requested that the Capitol Hill security apparatus keep the press as far from her as possible,” the Times photographer wrote.
Feinstein’s office denied that it is shielding the senator from the media.
“Our office has not asked photographers to not take pictures of her in her wheelchair,” Feinstein spokesman Adam Russell said in a statement to The Times. “We did ask, and continue to ask for safety reasons, that photographers and reporters give her space, particularly when entering and exiting her vehicle.”
Feinstein’s mental acuity has been in question since she returned to the Senate. She gave a bizarre answer when asked by reporters about her lengthy absence and how her colleagues reacted upon her return.
“No, I haven’t been gone,” she said, Slate reported. “You should follow the — I haven’t been gone, I’ve been working.”
One reporter asked whether she had been working from home. “No, I’ve been here. I’ve been voting,” she said. “Please, you either know or don’t know.”
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent for a national newspaper. He was also the a.m. editor of the Drudge Report for four years. Send tips to [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @josephcurl.