By Betsy Rothstein - 02/14/07 12:00 AM EST
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) believes it is his right as a Muslim to be sworn into Congress with the Quran. But apparently, the freshman lawmaker doesn’t believe it’s Rep. Tom Tancredo’s (R-Colo.) right to smoke a cigar in his congressional office.
Ellison’s office called the Capitol Hill Police on Tancredo last Wednesday night as Tancredo was in his office smoking a cigar. The lawmakers have neighboring offices on the first floor of the Longworth House Office Building.
Tancredo was still stunned a day later. “It’s very bizarre,” said Tancredo, who has never met Ellison. “Seemed to me not a good way to say hello.”
And let’s face it. Calling the cops on a colleague takes the cake for the nerviest behavior so far among members of this year’s freshman class of Congress.
This is how it all went down. On Wednesday evening, around 6 p.m., Tancredo was preparing for his trip to Mississippi. And as he so often does, he was unwinding with a cigar.
Soon enough, however, a police officer walked in to check on the smoke. The officer told Tancredo that the officer came because he was required to do so and not because the officer wanted to. The officer had already told Ellison that Tancredo was permitted to smoke in his office. The visit was more a formality.
Tancredo said he would not stop smoking in his office. “Heck, no!” he said. “If he [Ellison] would have [had] the courtesy to say something I’m sure I would have been more accommodating to his wishes.”
To help keep his office free of impurities, Tancredo has three air purifiers. And he has no plans to meet Ellison anytime soon. “I’m sure we will, but I’m not going to make a point [of it],” the presidential hopeful said, adding that he supported Ellison’s right to be sworn in with the Quran.
Ellison’s press secretary, Rick Jauert, made the call to the Superintendent’s office when he noticed the smoke. “I called because the smoke was coming through the walls,” Jauert said, adding that the Superintendent’s office referred him to the Capitol Police.
Jauert said he then informed his boss what he had done. He said “fine,” Jauert said. “He’s complained of the smoke before.”