While Democrats constantly bemoan alleged mistreatment of women by Republicans, they often fail to live up to their own standards.
After a candidate forum Tuesday night, State Rep. Greg Leding (D-Fayetteville) approached the stage where his opponent, Republican Dawn Clemence, was still standing. Footage from the incident shows Leding walk up to the base of the stage and being speaking to Clemence. He then starts pointing a finger at her before climbing onto the stage and getting up close to Clemence. He continues to approach her as she backs away, before putting his hand on her shoulder. He then abruptly walks away.
Another angle, posted by an account linked to State Sen. Trent Garner (R-El Dorado), shows what happens on the other side of the column from the first video.
Leding initially dismissed what the video shows, saying he was responding to Clemence.
“My opponent called out to me from the stage. So she wouldn’t have to lean down to talk, I joined her on the stage,” he said. “I apologize for patting her shoulder as we parted.”
In a follow-up statement, Leding expanded on his apology.
“After the forum, I left the stage. My opponent made some additional comments to me, so I hopped back up on stage, joining her at its edge,” he said. “I’ve worked very hard to serve all the people who live in the district I represent – work that has consistently included legislation and advocacy for women, teachers, students, firefighters, working families, and more – and that work’s been misrepresented in this campaign. I was frustrated, but it’s not acceptable to act on that. I apologize to Mrs. Clemence.”
Clemence issued her own statement saying Leding’s account of the incident was false.
“I am aware that you issued a statement” Clemence said, according to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette. “I would remind you that I do have your Facebook Live feed and audio. That is [a] bold faced lie. Unprovoked, you were pointing your finger and yelling at me, using vulgar language, intimidating me, blocking me and threatening me.”
In another statement, Clemence rejected Leding’s apology.
“When you encroached on my personal space, pointed your finger in my face, and placed your hands on me, you demeaned the office you currently hold and the one in which you seek,” she said.
Democratic Party Chair Michael John also criticized Leding’s behavior, according to the Arkansas Times.
“Representative Greg Leding’s behavior at Tuesday’s candidate forum was unacceptable. While Representative Leding has long been an effective advocate for his district, he should not have allowed frustrations from the campaign get the better of him. Rep. Leding has done the right thing by apologizing to Mrs. Dawn Clemence. We shouldn’t be defined by our mistakes, but how we respond to them,” John said. “Our party and our candidates have always championed a higher standard for Arkansas, and in turn we should hold ourselves accountable to that standard.”
The original video features poor audio but was recorded by the Leding campaign’s livestream. Clemence said technicians are working to clean up the audio in a version of the video that would be released soon.
“I think all women should be believed, including this conservative woman,” Clemence said. Leding had earlier expressed support for the #MeToo movement, which demands women who make sexual assault and harassment allegations be believed instantly.