GOP senator flips out at airline, sets off security alarm
John Byrne
Published: Wednesday March 11, 2009

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The Republican senator who found himself on a DC madam's client list is drawing new attention over "impulse control."

After missing a flight last Thursday from Washington to New Orleans,
Louisiana Sen. David Vitter opened an armed security door and went off on a United Airlines employee, according to a report filed Wednesday by (paid-restricted) Roll Call.

The door sounded a security alarm.

Vitter had arrived at the gate for a flight from Dulles Airport, only to find that the door had been closed twenty minutes prior to departure.

After setting off the security alarm, the Louisiana senator proceeded to dress down an airline employee who told him entering the restricted area was forbidden. He invoked his standing as a senator, delivering a "do-you-know-who-I-am" tirade, the paper said.

The airline worker then announced he was going to summon security.

"Vitter, according to the witness, remained defiant, yelling that the employee could call the police if he wanted to and their supervisors, who, presumably, might be more impressed with his Senator’s pin," the paper's Heard on the Hill column noted. "But after talking a huffy big game, Vitter apparently thought better of pushing the confrontation any further. When the gate attendant left to find a security guard, Vitter turned tail and simply fled the scene."

The paper joked that Vitter, 47, had joined the "mile-low club," and said that there's a "proud tradition" of US lawmakers devolving into temper tantrums at airports.

Reached for comment by Roll Call, Vitter's spokeperson did not dispute the incident.

Vitter's name appeared on the call logs of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the notorious DC madam who later committed suicide. Following the logs' publication in July 2007, Vitter acknowledged that he had used Palfrey's escort services and apologized for a "very serious sin" in his past.

Palfrey's records showed she called him five times -- twice while House roll call votes were in progress. Vitter served in the House from 1999 until his election to the Senate in 2004.

Update: Following Thursday evening's incident at Washington Dulles, TSA told The National Journal that they will be examining the event, even though a spokeswoman at the airport told the Times-Picayune that she doubts a police report was filed about the incident. Offenses are judged on a case-by-case basis, and officials aren't speculating as to whether fines or other punishments will be served to Senator Vitter.

Vitter's version of the story in a statement released today differs greatly from that of observers. "After being delayed on the Senate floor ensuring a vote on my anti-pay-raise amendment and in a rush to make my flight home for town hall meetings the next day, I accidentally went through a wrong door at the gate," Vitter said in a statement. "I did have a conversation with an airline employee, but it was certainly not like this silly gossip column made it out to be."

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