CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The candidate for U.S. Senate opened the press conference to 'serious' questions, then belted in the eye a television reporter who asked about his stay in a mental institution.
H. John Rogers, 41, an attorney who twice ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for governor, threw a roundhouse right Wednesday at reporter Loren Tobia of WSAZ-TV, hitting him on the upper left cheek and giving him a black eye.
The incident was recorded by TV cameras.
After the blow, Rogers walked back to his seat at his news conference to field more questions, but reporters got up and left.
'I think you ought to leave,' Rogers said.
Tobia, 26, said he ignored Rogers' suggestion that they go outside for another round and instead went to the hospital 'for X-rays to make sure nothing was broken.' He was treated for a black eye.
Tobia's boss, WSAZ-TV news director Bob Brunner, said in a brief statement that the station in Huntington planned 'no further action at this time.'
Rogers, however, said he would sue WSAZ and Tobia 'for defamation of character.'
Rogers, who spent four days in a mental facility earlier this year after spitting on a policeman, called the news conference to announce his intention to file for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate to oppose Senate Minority Leader Robert C. Byrd.
The attorney, who has had several brushes with the law, including a recent drunken driving charge in Ohio, showed up in a white suit with open collar for his press conference. A man opened the briefing by blowing a trumpet.
The bearded Rogers shouted his announcement about the Senate race, then stopped when he saw reporter Mike Jackson of Charleston station WCHS-TV chatting with his cameraman.
'Look at me!' shrieked Rogers. 'Look at me! I'm talking to you! You don't look away while I'm talking! You understand, sir!?'
Then, the declared candidate invited reporters to fire questions.
'Now, if you have any serious questions, I'll listen to them,' said Rogers. 'You all know I spit a lot.'
Tobia spoke up first, saying he had a 'serious' question, but Rogers muttered while re-lighting his pipe, 'Beware the fury of a patient man, sir.'
Tobia asked: 'Do you think your recent stay in a mental institution will hurt your candidacy?'
Rogers leaped from a couch and rushed at Tobia, who was seated, asking, 'Was that a serious question ... ?'
He cursed the newsman and struck him.
An unidentified man with Rogers wedged in between them.
Tobia reached for his microphone to join the departing reporters, and Rogers yelled from couch, 'Want to go outside and do it again, boy?'
Rogers was confined for four days at a Wheeling mental health center after he was arrested May 11 for spitting in the face of New Martinsville Police Chief Anthony Castranova. He was released by a court order and subsequently filed a $600,000 suit in federal court, challenging state mental health laws.
'The Charleston media has always been a trifle obtuse,' Rogers said later, in a prepared statement.
'Up in Wetzel County, we raise mules. The way one trains a mule is to take a baseball bat and hit the mule between the eyes. That gets the mule's attention.'
Said WSAZ's director, 'We believe Mr. Rogers' response to our reporter's legitimate question is far more eloquent than anything we might say.'