Vitter downplays airport flap

March 11, 2009 at 11:29 PM

WASHINGTON, March 11 (UPI) -- Sen. David Vitter, R-La., spent part of Wednesday downplaying an allegation he recently dressed down an airline worker at a Washington airport.

The junior U.S. senator from Louisiana first resisted answering questions about a report by the Washington newspaper Roll Call concerning the March 5 incident at Dulles International Airport and then issued a statement calling it "silly," Gannett reported.

Roll Call said Vitter had found the gate for his flight closed and set off an alarm when trying to open the door. He then yelled at a United Airlines worker who warned him against entering the gate, the Roll Call story said. An unnamed witness said Vitter went into a "do-you-know-who-I-am tirade."

Not so, said Vitter.

"I did have a conversation with an airline employee, but it was certainly not like this silly gossip column made it out to be," he said in a statement.

But Louisiana Democrats saw the incident as an opportunity to attack Vitter for what state Democratic Chairman Chris Whittington called his "lack of respect" for airport security and the people of Louisiana.

"The problem with Sen. Vitter is that he never believes the rules apply to him," said Eric Schultz, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, called the episode "much ado about nothing."

"It's actually a little funny to see the Democrats flapping in the wind here and trying to breathe life into a gossip item," Walsh said.

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