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Capitol dome in sun setting light - photo by mimi - 11/24/2011
Sigh. See if you can see this one coming:
On Friday, [anti-coal activist Maria Gunnoe] testified before the House Committee on Natural Resources in a hearing on the Obama administration's contentious relationship with the coal mining industry. She had prepared a slideshow presentation that included a photograph by the photojournalist Katie Falkenberg depicting a nude young girl sitting in a bathtub filled with murky brown water. The photo was meant as a salient statement to legislators on the impact of coal mining on society's most vulnerable. "We are forced to bathe our children in polluted water," she said. "Or not bathe them."
Ah, but the picture of a little kid sitting in a bathtub full of tea-colored water touched a bigger nerve than that whole "your mountaintop removal is really screwing with our kids' water" thing. Because staffers for Colorado Republican Doug Lamborn said it was probably child pornography, and reported her to the capitol police for such, which got her detained for about an hour by said capitol police to explain that no, the picture of a five year old in a tub was meant to be offensive because the water was brown and gross and possibly health-damaging, not because there was a five year old in a tub and that made Republican committee staffers instinctively think of sex.

Lamborn, for his part, says:

"I'm not going to issue an apology, and I don't think the staff members involved are going to issue an apology," said Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican. [...]

He said he decided to pull the photo, though he never saw it and still hasn't seen it. He says he has no desire to view the photograph, shot by a California-based photojournalist.

I don't recall any other time an anti-coal activist has been met with accusations of child pornography after testifying before Congress, so this odd event may count as a new peek into the annals of how GOP-led committees treat the other side's witnesses (note that Lamborn is an avid supporter of the coal industry). On the other hand, House Republicans have had a difficult history with the whole "minors" business, so I guess I can see them being extra cautious when it comes to things like this.


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