Lobbyist says squirrel had him at ‘hello’

In what may go down as the strangest news in ITK history, last week a 60-year-old registered lobbyist insisted that a squirrel said “hello” to him on Capitol Hill. The lobbyist, who would not allow us to use his name for fear of losing clients, represents a chemical company, Clariant. He lives at Hill House, an apartment complex that many lawmakers call home, and has been a registered lobbyist since May 15 of last year.

We’re reporting this story not because we believe in the miraculous squirrel, but because it reveals what colorful people work on Capitol Hill.

The alleged squirrel encounter occurred the week prior to July 4. No, he wasn’t tired, he says. Yes, his mental health is quite satisfactory, thank you. “I felt fine, there was nothing unusual,” he said, laughing. “Yeah, I know it’s weird.”

ITK met with Squirrel Man in the basement restaurant of the Capitol Hill Club last week, just a stone’s throw from the “crime scene” — a bench in front of the Cannon House Office Building. For reenactment purposes, he then led ITK to the bench where he was sitting when the squirrel approached. He looked around, made kissing noises at several squirrels and noticed a woman at another bench putting on shoes and socks. “Now that’s weird,” he said.

His version of the event: The lobbyist was sitting on the bench smoking a cigar when the squirrel approached, looked him in the eye and “distinctly said hello to me.” That particular day, the lobbyist did not have the stash of nuts and bread he usually brings to feed the animals.

So perhaps the squirrel was taunting him?

The lobbyist knows his story sounds strange. But, he says, he’s tired of keeping quiet. It’s a lonely feeling and he wants to know if anyone else in the community has ever heard a squirrel talk. “Every time a squirrel comes around I stop and wonder,” he said.

Asked whether any animal had ever spoken to him before, the lobbyist replied, “The short answer is no other animal has ever talked to me before, no birds or insects either.”

Louis Dorfman, an animal behaviorist at the International Exotic Animal Sanctuary in Boyd, Texas, has worked with wild animals much of his life — bears, wolves, cats and raccoons. He says animals do talk. But not in English.
So what about squirrels? “I’ve never seen any indication that they can make any human sounds,” Dorfman said. “All animals speak, they just don’t speak English. If you get to know them you can understand it.”

Squirrel Man is kicking himself about one thing, and it is that, astonishingly, he brushed the squirrel off and did not say “hello” back.

How rude, the squirrel likely thought.



Juan Williams unhappy as ‘happy Negro’

Juan Williams, the liberal-leaning pundit of Fox News and NPR, is not a happy camper these days — the word “happy” being the source of his ire.

Last week a guest on CNN, author and professor Boyce Watkins, referred to Williams as “the eternal happy Negro,” and the comment has the pundit hopping mad. The remark came in reaction to Williams’s spot on Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s radio show in which Williams defended O’Reilly’s take on black people.

The comment in question: “The fact of the matter is that, when Bill O’Reilly gets Juan Williams, the eternal happy Negro, on his show to congratulate him on his racism, that’s like Hugh Hefner getting a stripper to come on the show and tell him that he’s not a sexist,” Watkins said.

Williams wrote an op-ed on the matter at Time.com this week. He said people are calling and writing him about it. Even at church on Sunday, he said, folks approached and told him the remark was “outrageous.”

Rick Sanchez of CNN, who hosted the show, appeared on Howard Kurtz’s “Reliable Sources” and was asked why he didn’t challenge the comment. Sanchez called Williams a “professional,” and said he wishes Watkins hadn’t made the remark.

Williams told ITK that he’s angry CNN did nothing to counter Watkins’s remark. “I know people at CNN,” said Williams, who worked at CNN before moving over to Fox News. “I have a reputation in this town. I have written books that chronicle the civil rights movement. [CNN] should have the decency to do something. … It’s not for me to go begging them.

“I find it deeply offensive, but I think it’s typical of people who would rather attack my character and essentially call me an Uncle Tom rather than engage [in] the debate of what’s happening with race relations in this country.”

Williams was not offended when O’Reilly said his grandmother was afraid of black people. “Don’t say your grandmother’s prejudiced,” Williams assured. “She’s acting on the information she has been given.”



Sens. Allard and Grassley: Twins from behind

Last week Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) approached Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) in the Capitol and introduced himself, as though the two had never met. “Oh hello, I’m Sen. Grassley,” Grassley said. Allard played along. “Oh, very nice to meet you,” he replied.

Of course they had met — several times, in fact.

Allard later explained that people will sometimes approach him from behind and think he’s Grassley. “ ‘Oh, Sen. Grassley,’ they say. And then I’ll turn around and they’ll say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, Sen. Allard.’ ”

Allard isn’t sure what all the commotion is about. “I hate to think what I look like from the back,” he said.
Grassley, apparently.



Tancredo prepares for debate at historically black university

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) is serious about his debate preparation. Last Thursday he prepped for the GOP presidential debate that evening at Baltimore’s historically black Morgan State University by kicking back in the Speaker’s Lobby with a copy of Charles Murray’s Losing Ground.

Tancredo, one of five lawmakers who showed up for the debate, said he wanted to refresh his memory on the author’s arguments that Great Society social programs harmed progress that was being made in the black community.

 Aside from Tancredo, the other candidates to appear at the debate were Alan Keyes, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R).



Sighting: Dan Rather spotted in Reagan Airport

Eyes turned toward a certain former CBS newsman at Reagan National Airport last Friday as Dan Rather boarded a 6 p.m. U.S. Airways Shuttle to Manhattan.

“He flew coach,” a GOP press secretary who also was onboard said in an e-mail. “Obviously not too confident of winning the $70 [million].”

Rather was among the last to board, the aide said. “He was in cattle class and in a pretty crappy seat if he was in the last group to board,” he said.

Rather is suing CBS for $70 million.



Kazakh fashion show very un-Washington


Kazakhstan is more than the setting of comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s mockumentary “Borat,” or so the Symbat fashion house was trying to show last weekend with its series of fashion shows at the downtown Holiday Inn and the French Embassy.

The House of Symbat, which means “beauty” in Kazakh, inspired more shock than awe at its Saturday show, with a dizzying array of wool and bright chiffon.

The Kazakh band Artimas nearly lulled the audience to sleep during its long opening set. It’s difficult to describe their sound — something along the lines of Enya-meets-Central Asia.

Through a translator, Symbat’s chief designer, Balnur Assanova, called her pieces “bold and fashion-forward.” Only women unafraid to lead the worst-dressed list would be bold enough to don some Symbat creations.

Although Symbat’s fashion show was decidedly outside-the-Beltway, Sunday night’s International Couture Collections at the French Embassy featured wearable styles. To be sure, most men wouldn’t wear just underwear with a sheer Hugh Hefner matching robe number to a Capitol Hill office. And most fashion-minded women wouldn’t wear a gothic, “Matrix”-mimicking gown. But they might wear a bright red evening gown by Corjor International or a suit by Maryland-based KustomLooks.

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