New York Rep. Charlie Rangel is 80 years old and facing ethics charges that could derail his career of nearly four decades in Congress, but he's still in fighting trim. Just ask NBC correspondent Luke Russert, who got an apology from the gravelly-voiced lawmaker Friday after a brisk exchange the day before between the two men.
They got into the dust-up Thursday in the Capitol after Russert asked Rangel whether he was afraid of losing his job. "What are you talking about?" Rangel snapped back as other reporters looked on. "You just trying to make copy? How do you think I got my job? I was elected. How do you think I lose it?"
Russert, son of the late NBC political journalist Tim Russert, pressed on, saying Rangel could be defeated at the ballot or removed by his colleagues over charges that he failed to report financial holdings on his public disclosure form and that he used congressional letterhead to raise money for a private center named for him.
"What station are you from?" Rangel demanded. When Russert answered, Rangel continued: "Well, you're young. I guess you do need to make a name for yourself." The two men were face-to-face. "Basically, you know, it's a dumb question I'm not going to respond. . . . It doesn't really sound like NBC asking these dumb questions. It just shows what happened to a channel that did have some respect."
On Friday, Rangel thought better of it. He said he "had a very good (phone) conversation with Luke Russert and apologized for the way I treated him on television," according to The Hill newspaper.
Rangel, who represents uptown Manhattan, including much of Harlem, is a Korean War veteran who was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart by the U.S. Army. He is running for reelection, but could face trial-like proceedings in Congress as early as September. He already had to step aside as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
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