Darrell McGraw talks to Joyce Holland before Saturday’s Pumpkin Festival Parade. (Image taken from YouTube video)
CHARLESTON — Patrick Morrisey’s campaign wants an explanation and an apology from Attorney General Darrell McGraw after a weekend incident in which he confronted a Morrisey campaign staffer before a parade.
On Saturday, Morrisey’s campaign released a video of the incident involving McGraw and 24-year-old Morrisey staffer Justin Lafferty from Logan before the start of Milton’s annual Pumpkin Festival Parade.
“After almost four days, we still have not heard any comment from Attorney General Darrell McGraw regarding his Milton Meltdown,” Morrisey campaign manager Scott Will said Tuesday in a press release. “Justin Lafferty has asked for one simple thing: an apology.
“Over 14,000 people have watched Attorney General Darrell McGraw lose it on You Tube. Can McGraw provide a basic explanation for his actions and stop ducking any accountability? Why does Darrell McGraw run and hide when the pressure is on? Having no comment is not acceptable for a public official.”
Calls to McGraw’s campaign and to his office have not been returned.
On Saturday, Will said Lafferty was filming McGraw as he spoke to voters. He said Lafferty filmed from a comfortable distance and that he did not engage McGraw verbally. Lafferty was only within arms length because McGraw approached him, Will said.
“As Lafferty filmed, McGraw quickly reached out, ripped the camera from Justin’s hand, turning off the power in the process and tearing the strap holding the camera,” Will said.
West Virginia Democratic Party spokesman Derek Scarbro said Tuesday that Morrisey’s campaign is, in essence, making a mountain out of a molehill.
“I wasn’t there, but can speak on broader subject of election staff doing this kind of work,” Scarbro said. “The West Virginia Democratic Party employs research staff who videotape candidates’ speeches and press conferences, but our staff does not invade people’s personal space.
“We maintain a respectful distance and hold our staff to a high standard. Perhaps Mr. Morrisey, being from out-of-state, is teaching his staff campaign tricks he learned while running for Congress in New Jersey.”
According to Will, both the McGraw and Morrisey campaigns have filmed their opponents in public settings. And he said Morrisey has said that his campaign will continue to film McGraw until the incumbent agrees to public debates.
“Given McGraw’s unwillingness to debate, we want to ensure that the public fully appreciates the incumbent’s inability to answer questions without pre-scripted responses written by staff,” Will said. “Sadly, Darrell McGraw is proving that he too will have his own ‘Scream at Racine’ moment.”
The ‘Scream at Racine’ refers a 2004 speech given by McGraw’s brother Warren, who then was running for re-election to the state Supreme Court. Warren McGraw gave a speech in Racine at a United Mine Workers Labor Day rally that many credit with aiding in his defeat to Brent Benjamin.
“What Attorney General McGraw did today was way out of bounds and shows that he’s become unhinged,” Will said. “Voters have a right to see their candidates participate in public debates, mainly because it allows them to engage in a discussion on ideas and experience.”
Will also said debates give voters “a chance to view each candidate’s temperament.”
McGraw has refused every public debate and now we know why,” Will said. “He no longer possesses the judgment, maturity or restraint to serve as our state’s chief law enforcement officer.”
In the Milton video, McGraw also is shown talking to Republican House of Delegates candidate Joyce Holland about President Obama before walking away from her and stating to Lafferty’s camera, “That poor woman is so deceitful.”
He also accuses Holland of talking to him solely to get him filmed by Lafferty.
“He’s not welcome to use my physiognomy in this,” McGraw said, referring to Lafferty’s video. He then walks toward state Treasurer John Perdue and Agriculture Commissioner candidate Walk Helmick. McGraw then accuses Lafferty of being a stalker before the video abruptly ends.
On Monday, Morrisey’s campaign issued a statement from Lafferty asking for an apology from McGraw.
“What happened this weekend really upset me,” Lafferty said in the statement. “No one should have to worry about being attacked by another person, and particularly by a man who has been in public office since the mid-1970s.
“On Saturday, at the Pumpkin Festival, Attorney General Darrell McGraw lunged at me, ripped the camera away, and tore the strap that was attached to my hand. In so doing, he turned the power off on the camera.
“An adult in his position should be able to admit that what he did was wrong. That is why I am asking Darrell McGraw for an apology. That is my only request right now. I will await his response before saying or doing anything further.”
The statement also included a copy of a letter Lafferty sent to McGraw seeking an apology.
“I was definitely unnerved and rattled by this incident and don’t think it is appropriate to assault another person,” Lafferty’s letter stated. “I would like to put this matter behind us, but I do feel strongly that you should apologize for your behavior in Milton. That is all I am asking for. I will make a final decision about how to proceed after I hear back from you.”