WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain kicked protesters out of a committee hearing Thursday, calling them "low-life scum" as they hollered for the arrest of one of the witnesses, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger.
Shortly after Kissinger, 91, took a seat at the witness table, several protesters from the anti-war group Code Pink approached from behind, waving signs and a pair of handcuffs, and chanting, "Arrest Henry Kissinger for war crimes."
"You know, you're going to have to shut up or I'm going to have you arrested," McCain said from the podium, calling for U.S. Capitol Police to remove them. As officers escorted the protesters out of the hearing room, the six-term Arizona Republican, a decorated Vietnam veteran and former prisoner of war, growled, "Get out of here, you low-life scum."
U.S. Capitol Police spokeswoman Lt. Kimberly Schneider said three people were removed from the room, but no arrests were made.
In a statement later, McCain noted a gap between the beginning of the protest and the arrival of officers.
"With no U.S. Capitol Police intervening, the episode went on for several minutes," McCain said. He added that he had spoken with police officials and expects that "those responsible will be held fully accountable for their actions."
Schneider said later Thursday that the Capitol Police would conduct "a thorough review of the ?events" at the hearing.
"We take very seriously our mission to protect the Congress and its legislative processes, while balancing safety and security, and the First Amendment rights of people to peaceably assemble, Schneider said. "Today, our actions ... clearly did not demonstrate that mission, nor did our actions meet the standards expected of the USCP."
The upheaval came Thursday during a committee hearing that also featured testimony from former secretaries of state Madeleine Albright and George P. Shultz, who were sitting at the witness table with Kissinger.
Code Pink protesters routinely interrupt congressional hearings and are ushered out by police. But Thursday's incident was different, McCain said, because the protesters came within inches of Kissinger and waved what appeared to be metal handcuffs near his head.
At one point, a protester alleged that from 1969 to 1973, Kissinger, who was a national security adviser to President Richard Nixon before being named secretary of state, "oversaw" the deaths of millions of people in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The protester said many thousands more people died from the effects of the defoliant Agent Orange, or from unexploded U.S. ordnance littering the countryside.