Published March 12, 2009
NEW ORLEANS -- The Transportation Security Administration is reviewing a report that Sen. David Vitter, R-La., set off a security alarm when he opened a gate door in his rush to catch a flight last week at Washington Dulles International Airport.
In a statement, Vitter said he accidentally went through a wrong door at the gate leading to the United Airlines plane he was trying to board.
A Roll Call newspaper report based on an anonymous tipster says Vitter had a heated exchange with an airline worker and then left the scene when the worker left to call security. Vitter said the report mischaracterized his conversation with the employee.
"I did have a conversation with an airline employee, but it was certainly not like this silly gossip column made it out to be," Vitter said. He said he was trying to get home.
TSA spokeswoman Lauren Gaches wouldn't comment Thursday on the nature of the alleged incident under review.
"It has to be looked into first," she said.
United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski did not specifically identify Vitter, but said that "somebody attempted to open a door that was closed," which set off an alarm. The airline contacted airport authorities, she said.
The closed door was at an airport gate, opening to a corridor that allows access to the airplane.
Urbanski had no information on whether the airline employee was subjected to verbal abuse.
Rob Yingling, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which runs Dulles, said that while airport police may have been contacted, it does not appear a police report was filed.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee put out a statement about the incident naming Vitter to its "Hall of Shame" and making a backhanded reference to his involvement in a D.C. prostitution scandal that became public in 2007. Vitter acknowledged involvement with a prostitution ring that catered to the powerful and apologized for what he called a "very serious sin."
"Vitter, responding to the kind of frustration we've all felt, tried to use the power of his elected office to get special treatment," the committee said in its statement. "And it's not like this is the first time Vitter has raised eyebrows for his lack of self-control and inability to uphold the dignity of his office."