Colo. lawmaker censured for kicking photographer |

Colo. lawmaker censured for kicking photographer

Steven K. Paulson
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado

DENVER, Colorado ” TThe Colorado House voted 62-1 on Thursday to censure Rep. Douglas Bruce for kicking a newspaper photographer, saying Bruce “failed to uphold the honor and dignity” of the chamber.

It was the first censure in the history of the Legislature. The resolution said Bruce’s action reflected poorly on the state and criticized him for refusing to apologize.

Bruce, a Colorado Springs Republican, kicked Rocky Mountain News photographer Javier Manzano for snapping his photo during the traditional session-opening prayer on Jan. 14. Bruce was sworn in as a midterm replacement hours later.

Bruce said he did nothing wrong and describes his action as a “nudge” and not a kick.

The lone vote against censure was by Rep. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, who said Bruce deserved to be punished but that censure was too strong. Bruce was not permitted to vote.

Bruce stood in front of his colleagues toward the side of the chamber as the censure was read, his lips pursed and his arms folded.

He then delivered a rambling speech, again blaming the photographer and comparing himself to Jimmy Stewart in the 1939 movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Stewart played a freshman congressman who punches out a photographer and becomes a hero after launching a filibuster and collapsing on the floor.

Rep. Al White, R-Hayden, responded: “Representative Bruce, you’re not Jimmy Stewart, this is not a 1939 movie. This is today. Your actions were wrong.”

White said Bruce should admit his mistake and apologize.

Several lawmakers scowled and glared as Bruce defended himself. House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, cut him off, saying his time had expired.

Bruce had a seven-page letter distributed to his colleagues explaining his refusal to apologize and calling Romanoff his “executioner.” The House voted 56-7 not to have it reprinted in the official record, saying it didn’t accurately represent what happened.

In the letter, Bruce noted it was the Legislature’s first-ever censure and asked, “Does this single tapping justly rise to those historic levels? No.”

He said an appropriate response would have ranged from no action to private warning from Romanoff.

Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, said she voted to put Bruce’s response in the record so people could see for themselves how Bruce behaved.

“I think it would leave a record why the House took the action it did,” she said.

House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker, can remove Bruce from the Finance and State Affairs committees without a vote, but he said he would wait to see if Bruce’s behavior improves.

“We don’t need to be piling on. We’ll see how it goes,” he said.

Following are excerpts from Rep. Douglas Bruce’s response to a censure motion introduced in the House after Bruce kicked a newspaper photographer. Bruce has described his action as a tap or nudge. The committee he refers to was a House panel that recommended to the full House that Bruce be censured. The full text of Bruce’s response is at (Under “General Assembly,” click on “The Nudge” and “Considerations.”)

I brought four dozen roses for staff members, solely as good will gestures. I brought 64 baggies of Jelly Bellies for my new colleagues. I issued 64 invitations for a private meal with new colleagues

Are those the actions of a violent, angry, hateful, disruptive person? No.


Does this alleged freedom of the press allow him to violate my free exercise of religion, as guaranteed earlier in the First Amendment, and that equal right to pray of the entire chamber? No ….


No member, nor the pastor, was aware I had tapped the photographer’s knee. How can an unknown event be disorderly or disruptive?


… It is time to de-escalate this latest overreaction. … The committee engaged in a bidding war in front of the press, showing who could pile on the toughest penalties for this non-injury touching. … One member even publicly challenged the sincerity of my patriotism and religious faith!


I will remain, but as a virtual pariah, condemned solely for an act intended to enforce my respect for the House proceedings (!) Such an ironic result is not only unjust, but incomprehensible.


The papers report that no one has ever been censured in the history of the House. The clerk is not aware of even any public reprimands. Does this single tapping justly rise to those historic levels? No. The realistic and proportional options range from no action to private warning or admonition by the speaker.


You said you wanted to work together. I accept your word, but how credible will it be seen if it comes from one’s executioner? Penalties as heavy as those recommended do not reflect well on the House.


I take House formality and decorum very seriously. I had already decided I will never remove my coat, even when allowed. President Ronald Reagan did the same when inside the Oval Office.

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