Rep. McHenry Blasted Over Treatment of Consumer Advocate Warren

In a daylong social media smackdown, hundreds — perhaps thousands — of Elizabeth Warren fans flooded Rep. Patrick McHenry's Facebook page on Wednesday with demands that he apologize for his treatment of her during a congressional oversight hearing Tuesday in which he essentially called her a liar.

Warren is the Harvard law professor who's putting together the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a key cog in the financial overhaul law and a big thorn in the side of major financial institutions.

McHenry (R-North Carolina) is a leading recipient of campaign donations from the financial industry, but he also has a reputation as something of a firebrand. He didn't back down despite the comments on his Facebook page, on left-leaning blogs and through Twitter.

The dispute played out throughout the day among supporters of Warren and McHenry.

“Be ashamed!” Stephen Borg Cardona wrote on McHenry's Facebook wall.

“Wow. Such hatred and disrespect,” Kathleen Standard wrote.

He's been called a fool, asked to resign and advised to practice an apology in front of the mirror.

“It's not that hard,” Gary Votour wrote.

Between Facebook and Twitter, McHenry has been called rude, arrogant, ignorant, pigheaded and a few names we can't print.

Not everyone was there to hate, though. A Facebook poster named Jason Burgess wrote, “Rep. McHenry, you make me quite proud of you!”

Many of the posters accused McHenry of deleting earlier posts on the website. Some offered online links to McHenry's campaign donors, which include Charlotte-based Bank of America, Wells Fargo and other major financial institutions.

McHenry began Tuesday's hearing hostile toward Warren, and she responded sharply in kind.

The exchanges between them broke down near the end of the one-hour hearing.

The two argued about whether she had to leave the room at 2:15 pm for a scheduled meeting or could hang out for another 20 minutes to answer questions from two committee members who were down on the floor of the House of Representatives voting.

The hearing's time had been changed repeatedly the previous day, and Warren's staff had to juggle her calendar and said she'd have to leave at 2:15 pm, she said.

When McHenry asked whether Warren could stay, she answered, “Congressman, you are causing problems. … You told us one thing.”

McHenry answered: “I told you nothing. … We had a request. … “

Warren responded: “We had an agreement.”

Said McHenry: “You're making this up, Ms. Warren. This is not the case; this is not the case.”

The argument was largely immaterial, but it offered insight into the relationship Warren and McHenry can expect as they proceed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the full committee's top Democrat, offered a warning to McHenry.

“Mr. Chairman, you just did something that — I mean to be cordial here, but you just accused the professor of lying,” Cummings said quietly.

In the end, Warren left for her meeting, agreeing to answer further questions in writing. And McHenry toned it down.

“Ms. Warren,” McHenry said, “I appreciate your service to our government. I do.”

Afterward, he said that Warren had a “sense of entitlement” in wanting to hold the committee to the one-hour time frame to which she'd committed.

McHenry Tweeted about the hearing late Tuesday, writing: “Today was further evidence of Elizabeth Warren's complete disregard for cong. oversight.”

Warren's office had nothing to say about the dispute.

McHenry linked to a Washington Examiner story that said Warren “skipped out” of the hearing.

McHenry's staff said he wouldn't issue an apology.

His Twitter account was silent during the flame wars until 5 pm Wednesday, when he re-Tweeted the words of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) the chairman of the House oversight committee.

Issa came to McHenry's defense in the Twitterverse with several missives accusing Warren of “walking out.” Among his Tweets:

“Warren's excuse? Caimed she didn't know she'd have to stay to answer Oversights…but guess what? She did know, but tried to bail anyway.”

The oversight committee’s Facebook page posted a snapshot of emails between the staffs. One showed the Department of Treasury offering at one point to have Warren at the hearing through 2:30 pm, 15 minutes past the time she later told McHenry she needed to leave.

It was unclear from the emails whether that time was changed later.

Another, from McHenry's staff, said the hearing would definitely end by 3:30.

© 2011 McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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