By Paul LeBlanc, Manu Raju and Morgan Rimmer, CNN
Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty of Ohio said Tuesday that Republican Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky poked her in the back and told her “kiss my ass” after she asked him to wear a mask before boarding the US Capitol’s subway system.
Beatty, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, said in a string of tweets, “Today, while heading to the House floor for votes, I respectfully asked my colleague @RepHalRogers to put on a mask while boarding the train. He then poked my back, demanding I get on the train. When I asked him not to touch me, he responded, ‘kiss my ass.'”
“This is the kind of disrespect we have been fighting for years, and indicative of the larger issue we have with GOP Members flaunting health and safety mandates designed to keep us and our staff safe,” Beatty continued. “@RepHalRogers, when you are ready to grow up and apologize for your behavior, you know where to find me.”
Rogers told CNN Tuesday, “My words were not acceptable” and said he apologized to Beatty on the House floor and in a statement said he “expressed my regret to her, first and foremost.”
Beatty said she accepted Rogers’ apology and was “moving on.” In recounting the incident to CNN’s John Berman on “New Day” Wednesday morning, Beatty said Rogers’ original apology on the House floor was insufficient because “he mumbled some words” which led her to demand a public apology.
She also suggested the situation would have unfolded differently had the race roles been reversed.
“Maybe the question is, had a Black man poked a White woman and then told her to kiss his blank blank, you tell me what you think would have happened,” she told Berman.
Rogers’ apology came after members of the Congressional Black Caucus gathered on the House steps to condemn Rogers for “assaulting” Beatty and demand a public apology.
“It’s despicable that someone could physically and verbally assault another member of this chamber,” said Nevada Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford, the first vice chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “We are here in solidarity to call on that member to formally apologize to our Chair, and to understand the seriousness of his actions, and the lack of decorum that he exhibited today.”
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries echoed that message, saying, “He needs to apologize, man up, apologize immediately, before this escalates to a place he doesn’t want this to go.”
“Who does Hal Rogers think he is? How dare he put his hands on anyone, man, woman or child? How dare he assault Joyce Beatty? How dare he jab her aggressively in the back? How dare he verbally attack her? How dare he say ‘kiss my a**’? Who do you think you are?” the New York Democrat added.
Beatty’s account of the exchange underscores the larger Democratic frustration with Republican lawmakers who have defied the stepped-up health protocols in the Capitol.
While masks aren’t mandated on the Capitol subway system, a number of House GOP lawmakers have been fined for refusing to wear masks in Congress. The fines are automatically docked from lawmakers’ paychecks.
This story has been updated with additional information and reaction.
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CNN’s Annie Grayer and Shawna Mizelle contributed to this report.