WOODLAND HILLS (CBSLA.com) — The Vice Presidential debate turned out only to be the second-best political fight on TV on Thursday night.
Two Democratic candidates for a newly-drawn San Fernando Valley district, Rep. Brad Sherman of Sherman Oaks and Rep. Howard L. Berman, of Valley Village, found themselves in a heated exchange over an immigration bill during a debate at Pierce College.
A video posted on YouTube shows the lawmakers already standing near one another when Berman shifted to his left as Sherman continued to speak with a raised voice.
Sherman then accused Berman of getting into his face, forcefully threw his arm around Berman’s shoulder, and drew him close to his own face and asked him, “You want to get into this?”
The Berman campaign has suggested that Sherman escalated the incident by grabbing Berman – a move clearly shown in the YouTube video – before a sheriff’s deputy walked toward the two men.
But Sherman told KNX 1070’s Dick Helton that despite the physicality involved, the whole episode has been “pretty overblown.”
“This has been a contentious race, and frankly, I don’t think either one of us could be proud of those two minutes of the debate, although the rest of the debate was pretty informative,” Sherman said.
He also signaled that the Berman campaign was attempting the leverage the incident for political points.
“My opponent is trying to hype this and he’s got a carefully edited video on his website,” said Sherman. “He starts at a certain point and he ends at a certain point…it’s not manufactured, editing is starting and stopping.”
On his website, Sherman posted another video of the same incident – but captured from a different angle – that he alleges shows Berman initiating the confrontation.
“In all my years in office, I’ve had dozens and dozens of debates with political opponents… strenuous debates about legislative issues. I’ve never ever had someone who actually started threatening me, and grabbing me, and wanting to go off and fight it out,” Berman told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO on Friday.
When asked what happened, Berman said that Sherman, “told a lie. Not the first time in this campaign. I called him on it. He stood up, came over to me, started screaming, grabbed me by the shoulders. And then essentially said, ‘You want to get on with this? You want to go outside and fight it out?’
Said Berman, “He became unhinged. He lost control. That’s what really happened. It was as simple as that. A sheriff’s deputy went up to him and pushed him back a little bit. I walked away and the debate continued.”