Oklahoma representative Markwayne Mullin, a former mixed martial arts fighter, said he “did not deal good with bullies” and said people need to be held accountable for “running their mouths”.
Mr Mullin got into a heated argument with the President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Sean O’Brien during the hearing – which was centred around how unions can help working families – at one point leaping up from his chair to challenge the witness.
He was admonished by 82-year-old Mr Sanders, who chairs the committee, who told him: “Hold it. No, no, no, sit down. Sit down! You’re a United States senator, sit down.”
Speaking to Fox News on Wednesday, Mr Mullin was asked if, had Mr Sanders not intervened, he would have actually “jumped over the dais” and started a fight with Mr O’Brien.
“Absolutely. I wouldn’t have started the fight, he started it,” he said.
“The fact is that, you know, people say this isn’t incumbent of a Senator, but I remind people, I’m a guy from Oklahoma first, and you just don’t run your mouth like that.
“And unfortunately, he did. And I called him out on it. I mean, I don’t like bullies. I’ve never dealt good with bullies at all.”
He continued: “I’ve raised my boys not to deal with bullies, they stand up for other people and a guy like that - when you run your mouth, you need to be called out on it every now and then if that requires you getting, unfortunately punched in the face.
“That’s what’s going to happen every now and then because there’s consequences for your actions, and I’ve raised my kids understanding that.”
Mr Mullin faced social media mockery for his outburst, and was even described as “a disgrace to Senate and the country”.
The altercation began after Mr Mullin read a tweet posted by Mr O’Brien in June in which the union boss called the senator a “clown” and a “fraud” before going on to say that he “pretends like he’s self-made”.
“In reality, just a clown and fraud. Always has been, always will be. Quit the tough guy act in these senate hearings. You know where to find me. Anyplace, Anytime cowboy,” he wrote at the time.
“Sir, this is a time, this is a place. You want to run your mouth, we can be two consenting adults, we can finish it here,” Mr Mullin told Mr O’Brien during the hearing.
“Okay, that’s fine. Perfect,” the union leader responded. “You want to do it now? Stand your butt up then,” the Oklahoma senator said, standing up.
Multiple people commented on the exchange in the aftermath, including Ben Collins of NBC News, who wrote: “Normal stuff, normal country!”
The widely followed “Angry Staffer” account added: “Senator Mullin hid under a chair on January 6, but he’s real tough when he knows nobody is going to let him fight a witness.”
Former Hillary Clinton and Pete Buttigieg strategist Jennifer Holdsworth tweeted out “a reminder that big time coward @SenMullin hid in fear from the insurrectionists he helped foment. He’s a disgrace to the Senate and to the country”.
Mr O’Brien appeared on CNN on Tuesday afternoon, where he was asked if he was concerned that his tussle may have drawn attention away from the real issues being discussed.
“Not at all. I mean, we had some great dialogue about issues that affect working people about organizing collective bargaining – unionizing America,” he responded. “And there was a lot of different opinions, a lot of different debate. And it was great until Markwayne Mullin – obviously we’re renting space in his head – decided to erupt.”
“Unfortunately today, Mark chose to not act like a US senator and he’s gonna have to pay the consequences for that,” Mr O’Brien said.
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