2-Pane Combined
Full Summaries Sorted

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, Chair, House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources

That's the most inappropriate thing I've never seen!

Maria Gunnoe in a cleared areaMaria Gunnoe is a West Virginia mining activist, the recipient of many awards including the 2009 Goldman Environmental Prize (the so-called “Green Nobel”), and a tireless advocate for the people of southern Appalachia. She has, on several occasions, been asked to testify on issues involving mountaintop-removal coal mining before Congress, a body that she considered largely unreceptive to her message. Thus, when Gunnoe was invited by Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado to testify before the Energy and Mineral Resources subcommittee he chairs, she wondered what she could do to more effectively make her case. Adopting the old adage, a picture is worth a thousand words, Gunnoe decided to provide the subcommittee with a visual aid—a photo by award-winning photojournalist Katie Falkenberg depicting a five-year-old West Virginia girl bathing in murky orange water, the result of runoff from a nearby mountaintop-removal project.

When Gunnoe arrived on Capitol Hill, she was informed by a member of Lamborn's staff that the photograph was “inappropriate” and that she could not display it during her testimony. Adding insult to injury, at the conclusion of her testimony, Gunnoe was approached by a U.S. Capitol Police officer who escorted her into a side room where the 44-year-old grandmother was questioned for almost an hour based on an anonymous tip that Gunnoe might be in possession of child pornography.

While the exact source remains unknown, there is no doubt that the complaint came from someone on Lamborn's staff. Gunnoe emailed the image to Lamborn's office two hours before the hearing was scheduled to begin. Lamborn denies ever having seen the photograph himself, but told The Denver Post that a member of his staff “had a serious question about whether [the image was] appropriate or not.” Based solely on that staffer's recommendation, Lamborn ordered that the photo be removed from Gunnoe's presentation. There is no indication that anyone other than Lamborn's staff ever viewed the image prior to Gunnoe's detention by Capitol Police.

The censoring of a congressional witness is bad enough, but to then smear her name with allegations of child pornography is simply reprehensible. Lamborn, however, remains unmoved. “I'm not going to issue an apology, and I don't think the staff members involved are going to issue an apology,” he said, adding “I think this woman should consider what…she brings to hearings.” The implication that what Gunnoe brought to the hearing was in at all comparable to child pornography is laughable. The mere fact that a photograph depicts a nude child does not exclude the image from First Amendment protection. Falkenberg's photograph is but one example of a continuum of protected images—from candid family snapshots of newborns and children at play in the bath, to serious photojournalism such as the Pulitzer Prize-winning image of Kim Phuc stumbling naked down a road after being severely burned in a South Vietnamese napalm attack.

Rep. Lamborn's blind reliance on a staff member's objection resulted in silencing a significant element of Maria Gunnoe's testimony regarding the effects of mountaintop-removal mining. As Gunnoe sees it “they didn't have anything else in mind other than stopping that photograph from being seen. And it wasn't because the little girl didn't have a shirt on. It was because she was bathing in mine waste.” For personally censoring the testimony of a congressional witness and condoning her further intimidation by means of baseless allegations of child pornography, Rep. Doug Lamborn earns a 2013 Jefferson Muzzle.

DMU Timestamp: March 28, 2013 23:38

0 comments, 0 areas
add area
add comment
change display
add comment

Quickstart: Commenting and Sharing

How to Comment
  • Click icons on the left to see existing comments.
  • Desktop/Laptop: double-click any text, highlight a section of an image, or add a comment while a video is playing to start a new conversation.
    Tablet/Phone: single click then click on the "Start One" link (look right or below).
  • Click "Reply" on a comment to join the conversation.
How to Share Documents
  1. "Upload" a new document.
  2. "Invite" others to it.

Logging in, please wait... Blue_on_grey_spinner