Sen Markwayne Mullin’s attempt to physically brawl with a union boss who had called him a “clown” on social media captured the attention of many on Tuesday and left some questioning the seriousness of the United States Congress.
The moment played out during a meeting of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labour and Pensions (HELP) as members of the Senate heard from Teamsters president Sean O’Brien. Mr O’Brien was in Washington to testify on issues including ongoing collective bargaining efforts in America for a hearing chaired by Senator Bernie Sanders which also touched on America’s spike in EV production.
Mr Mullin ignored the hearing’s premise entirely and instead focused on a series of tweets Mr O’Brien had aimed at the senator following the committee’s last meeting with union leaders. He stood up and challenged Mr O’Brien to a fight, before Mr Sanders stopped the confrontation and admonished him.
“If you want to run your mouth, we can be two consenting adults. We can finish it here,” the senator told Mr O’Brien.
He remained unrepentant about the display on Hannity later that evening, explaining that his right-wing constituents in Oklahoma expected no less from him.
“When I stood up, he was scared out of his mind. Because he was very thankful that Bernie Sanders stopped us after he said, ‘Okay, we can do it now.’ I thought, ‘Great, this is going to be a great day.’ I mean, no offense, but I really wasn’t worried about the fight itself. I was ready to shut his mouth up!” the senator said on Fox News.
“What do people want me to do? If I didn’t do that, people would be pretty upset at me.”
Mullin says if he didn’t challenge Senate witnesses to fist fights, the people of Oklahoma would be upset with him pic.twitter.com/VdfKs8MYud
— Acyn (@Acyn) November 15, 2023
The senator’s conduct was widely circulated on social media on Tuesday after the incident transpired, and earned him some mockery from his usual critics.
One of those critics was fellow Republican Matt Gaetz, who took aim at the senator on his podcast. Mr Mullin is known to be a close ally of Kevin McCarthy, whom Mr Gaetz ousted from the speakership last month.
“Markwayne Mullin beating some guy’s a** who doesn’t like him in a Senate Committee room isn’t going to help his constituents,” Mr Gaetz declared. “The hero of that entire exchange was Bernie Sanders.”
But Hannity appeared to shrug off any concern the Oklahoma senator’s constituents may have over the confrontation.
“I’ve gotta be honest, I don’t think this is going to hurt you with the people of Oklahoma,” he said. “I think your pop popularity probably will go up tenfold as a result.”