When Maryland Republican Charles Lollar, who's challenging Democrat House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer in the state's 5th district, finished a debate last week, he couldn't believe his ears. "I'm coming after you," Hoyer turned to him and said twice, according to Lollar. Now new accusations have emerged alleging the comment was more than an empty threat.
The controversy centers around a raucous debate between Lollar and Hoyer at a Chamber of Commerce candidate forum on October 12. According to a Lollar spokesperson, who spoke to somd.com, Lollar answered a question about the budget by reminding the audience that "Congress holds the purse string," and then called Hoyer irresponsible for refusing "to even pass a budget for this year for the first time in several years."
Somd.com explains what happened next:
Immediately after the exchange, Hoyer turned to Lollar and said, "I'm coming after you," according to a press release issued by the Lollar campaign this morning. "When Lollar brushed aside the challenge with a smile, Hoyer then repeated it." Lollar spokesperson Patt Parker told somd.com that Hoyer made this comment after the microphones had been turned off.
A Hoyer spokesperson denies the allegations. And while Hoyer can be seen mouthing multiple words to Lollar in the video of the exchange below (starting at about 4:20), it's unclear exactly what was said:
The story, unfortunately, doesn't end with allegations of threats. At a press conference on Tuesday, Lollar explained that Hoyer actually "punched" the Republican challenger at the Chamber forum -- twice. He was responding to a question from an eye witness who claims to have seen Hoyer "knuckle punch" Lollar:
Lollar, a veteran, said that the actions were an example of "desperate measures" and then joked: "If I were to pick a fight with anyone it wouldn't be a marine."
Still, he says he harbors no ill will toward Hoyer: "I simply believe that sometimes you just have a tendency of staying in places too long. You feel betrothed to certain positions of power and you forget where you've come from."
Two currently available videos of the exchange neither confirm Lollar's claims nor exonerate Hoyer. Both videos show a short period of time where someone partially obstructs the candidates, and where punches could have occurred:
Lollar's campaign office did not immediately return a request seeking clarification and details of the alleged punch.
Lollar's Campaign Manager, Mykel Harris, confirmed to The Blaze this afternoon that Hoyer did make contact with Lollar after the event. Harris initially described the contact as a "bump," but after being pressed on the issue went on to say that Lollar does in fact stand by his description during yesterday's press conference that the contact was a "punch."
“There was contact twice," Harris said. “[Lollar's] standing by that.” However, Harris made it clear that it was a reporter, not Lollar, that described the contact as a "knuckle punch." He said that while the second bit of contact isn't clear in the available videos, one can decipher the initial hit (after watching this first video above).
Harris did reveal details regarding Lollar's meeting with campaign officials in which Lollar disclosed the incident.
"We had a meeting later on that evening," Harris told The Blaze. After Lollar explained Hoyer's shocking threat, Harris then quoted Lollar's description of the contact: “And on top of that, as I’m walking out, he hits me in my back twice. I’m telling you he hit me twice.”
Regarding the race, Harris added: “We’re outnumbered and outresourced. But if we can get our message out we can win.”