A man who has worked on various campaigns for liberal causes in Pennsylvania and elsewhere turned a town hall forum hosted by U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey last week on its head when he asked a startling question about Toomey's daughter.
“We’ve been here for a while. You probably haven’t seen the news," Simon Radecki said Thursday night, addressing the Republican senator." Can you confirm whether or not your daughter Bridget has been kidnapped?”
Bethlehem police quickly rushed Radecki and ushered him out of the studios of PBS 39, Bethlehem's public television station. Initial reports indicated police would charge Radecki with disorderly conduct and disturbing a public meeting.
But as of Wednesday evening, that was not the case. A clerk in the local magisterial judge's office said no charges had been filed. Bethlehem police officials did not return messages left for comment.
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In his first interview since the forum, Toomey told conservative radio host Dom Giordano of Talk Radio 1210AM in Philadelphia on Wednesday morning that it was "outrageous" and "appalling" that Radecki would talk about Toomey's daughter in that context.
"Look, you know for a dad, your number one priority, by far, is the safety and security of your children and your family, right," Toomey said in a short on-air interview. "So for someone to make a statement like that, I don't know how anyone would not perceive it as a threat, however veiled. And that's just outrageous."
He added that he is fair game, but his family should not be brought into the realm of dirty politics.
"Look, say whatever you like about me — and people do, people feel free to do that, believe me," Toomey said. "But family should be off limits. Children should be so off limits."
Radecki, in a Facebook post, wrote shortly after the town hall tussle with police that children were actually central to his question, a question he says he never got to fully ask of the senator.
"My question in full, should I have been allowed to ask it in full:
"Thank you, Senator Toomey, for coming here tonight to hear our questions. I’m assuming you’ve been busy thinking about how to answer our questions, so you haven’t seen the news. Do you know whether you daughter, Bridget, has been abducted?
Whatever you’re feeling right now, that’s what it feels like to have a daughter deported. Thousands of fathers here in the Valley that live with that fear every day. Their daughters have names, too. So here’s my question. Do you unequivocally denounce any attempt by the administration to reverse DACA, which would hang the threat of deportation over hundreds of thousands of children the same age as Bridget?"
Whether or not Radecki's question was in poor taste, a lawyer with the ACLU of Pennsylvania took exception to the actions of the local police.
"Bethlehem police jump in to be the 'thought police,'" ACLU-PA deputy legal director Mary Catherine Roper said. "Asking someone a question like that might be unnerving, and he wanted it to be unnerving. But there was no threat and certainly no disruption. Without something other than what I’ve seen reported, whether or not he’s even been charged, his rights have already been violated. He got pulled out of a public forum."
Radecki could not be reached for comment.
A spokesman for PBS 39 said it has muted the audio of the moment when Radecki asks Toomey about his daughter because Radecki mentions her by name.
"While Sen. Toomey is a public figure, his daughter, who was named, is not," PBS39 Vice President DaWayne Cleckley said. "That was an editorial decision."
As for Radecki's removal, Cleckley said that was the decision of police officers at that moment.
The video posted on PBS39's website doesn't show Radecki's interaction with officers toward the end of the 54-minute broadcast. Moments later, another audience member is standing with a microphone-holding reporter.
After the reporter apologizes for the disturbance, Toomey took another question.