"I deeply and profoundly regret my reaction and I apologize to all involved," Rep. Bob Etheridge of North Carolina said in a statement. "No matter how intrusive and partisan our politics can become, this does not justify a poor response."
A Democratic congressman apologized Monday after video posted online showed him swatting at the camera, demanding that two men taping him identify themselves and grabbing one of them by the wrist and neck.
The video was posted on websites owned by Andrew Breitbart, the conservative Web entrepreneur who also released video of workers for the community organizing group ACORN counseling actors posing as a pimp and prostitute.
It shows two men approaching Etheridge with a camera on a Washington street. He swats at the camera and repeatedly asks the men who they are. When they say they are students, he grabs one by the wrist and quickly by the back of the neck before pulling him against his side.
Etheridge, a congressman in the state since 1997, reiterated his apology at a hastily called news conference Monday afternoon.
"The truth is I had a long day," he said. "I've had bad days many times. It's not a good crutch to lean on and I won't use that."
The video is interspersed with several screens of text, including: "What happens when a US congressman meets a college kid on a street in Washington?" and a few frames later, "He goes BERSERK!"
In a telephone interview from London, Breitbart declined to name the students who recorded the video, saying he wanted to protect them. The two do not work for Breitbart and were not paid, he said.
A Breitbart employee found the video online, edited it and posted it, he said. A story accompanying the video on a Breitbart website says the video was recorded last week. Etheridge declined to say when the encounter occurred.
A Breitbart website later posted what it described as unedited video of the encounter taken from two camera angles.
Etheridge's Republican opponent in the November election, Renee Ellmers, said at a news conference that the apology was not enough but also said Etheridge deserved the benefit of the doubt.
"As a mom, I am very concerned about what happened to those college kids," said Ellmers, 46, a registered nurse who decided to run for office after speaking out against the federal health care overhaul at tea party events.
State GOP Chairman Tom Fetzer, though, predicted the matter would be "devastating" to Etheridge's re-election bid.
"This is an angry man who behaved very inappropriately," Fetzer said.
Bob Etheridge incident: What does he have to apologize for?