The right is outraged that Bernie Sanders stopped a fight in the Senate

Montpelier/Vermont, Feb. 20, 2020: Bernie Sanders laughs during a rally
Bernie Sanders laughs during a rally. Photo: Shutterstock

In a bizarre moment earlier this week, a Republican senator tried to pick a fight with a witness at a hearing and had to be stopped by none other than progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). And instead of thanking Sanders for getting him out of his predicament, he’s using it as an example of liberals going too far by… preventing fistfights in the Senate. Other Republicans are also outraged that Sanders wouldn’t let a fight happen during a hearing where he was chair.

On Tuesday, Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) challenged International Brotherhood of Teamsters President Sean O’Brien to a fight in the middle of a hearing after complaining that O’Brien had called him a “clown” and a “fraud” who “pretends like he’s self-made” on social media.

“Quit the tough guy act in these Senate hearings,” O’Brien wrote on X. “You know where to find me. Any place, any time, cowboy.”

Mullin told O’Brien that “we can be two consenting adults” and actually have the fight. O’Brien didn’t back down and Mullin stood as if he was really going to go beat O’Brien up when Sanders stopped them.

“Hold on, stop it!” Sanders scolded them, effectively giving them an excuse not to embarrass themselves on camera and possibly get arrested. “You’re a United States senator! Sit down!”

That could have been the end of the episode, but instead of thanking Sanders for getting him out of a situation that his hot head got himself into, Mullin is now attacking liberals in the media for making it taboo to get into fights while on the job. Speaking on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show that evening, Mullin said that the real issue is “political correctness” and that “the left can say whatever they want.”

“I don’t think there was a single day that we were playing sports where we didn’t drop the gloves or, you know, have a brief interlude of, you know, throwing fists and it would be all be over,” Hannity said as if he was getting into fistfights every day when he was younger.

In another interview, Mullin said that the Senate should be a lot more violent, like it was in the past.

“There’s been canings before in the Senate, too,” he told Fox Business. “Maybe we should bring some of that back. Keep people from thinking they’re so tough, and make us sit at a table and we can actually work out our differences without poking at each other and want to run to cameras and call people names.”

The Senate’s website does have a record of a caning that occurred in 1856 when Rep. Preston Brooks of South Carolina went to the Senate Chamber and beat Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts with a cane until he was unconscious for the crime of opposing slavery. Brooks was censured by the House and resigned. He died at age 37. Mullin is 46.

Mullin then said that he would have bitten O’Brien, as if that is a sign of how good of a fighter he is.

“By the way, I’m not afraid of biting,” he said in a podcast interview. “I will bite.”

“I’ll bite 100%. In a fight, I’m gonna bite. I’ll do anything. I’m not above it. And I don’t care where I bite by the way,” he bragged.

Other conservatives have stood up for Mullin’s right to not have to do what Bernie Sanders says. Rep. Rich McCormick (R-GA) said that he’s helping Mullin train.

On his podcast, anti-trans extremist Matt Walsh blamed Mullin’s pugnacious nature on the fact that he’s a man (Sanders shutting down the fight, though, apparently has nothing to do with his gender).

“I totally unironically think that we would be a better, healthier country if physical fights broke out in Congress every once in a while,” he said. “Politicians don’t fight like this anymore because they agree too much on everything.”

“And also, look, historically, it’s always been understood that men should have outlets to settle a beef physically in a fair and honorable way,” he continued.

He also brought up the 1856 caning in the Senate – which, again, was done in the service of protecting the institution of slavery – and said, “It’s the way disputes were settled back in those days.” He did acknowledge that the caning didn’t prevent the Civil War, so it apparently didn’t settle anything.

On the far-right Newsmax, host Benny Johnson got mad at Sanders for stopping the fight.

“We used to have a country of men,” he complained, calling Mullin “a man” and “amazing.”

“Bernie Sanders always has to come in and ruin everything. Dusty, old, schleppy, dirty, bum, socialist, Karl Marx, Bernie Sanders, had to go ruin it all,” Johnson whined. “We were about to have our first brawl inside of the US Senate. And you know what? I would argue dueling is a good thing. Men standing up for their own honor and men having to face the consequences of their own words is a good thing.”

Sanders isn’t backing down from his apparently controversial opinion that senators shouldn’t try to physically fight witnesses at hearings.

“It’s pretty pathetic,” he told out CNN host Anderson Cooper. “This country, Anderson, faces so many crises. We have massive income and wealth inequality. We have a housing crisis. Our healthcare system is almost collapsing, it’s broken, it’s dysfunctional. We pay the highest prices for prescription drugs. Climate change is threatening the entire existence of the planet.” 

“And this is what goes on in a Senate hearing.”

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