A Phoenix Reporter told Republican Rep. Don Shooter to not touch him after the Yuma lawmaker placed his hand on the reporter's back during an exchange Wednesday on the floor of the Arizona House of Representatives.
The Arizona Republic says that Dennis Welch, political editor and anchor at KTVK, was attempting to ask Shooter a question when the lawmaker stopped him, according to Democratic Rep. Daniel Hernandez, of Tucson, who witnessed the encounter.
Hernandez said he was sitting at his desk on the floor of the House when he heard a commotion. It appeared as though Welch was trying to elicit comments from Shooter as he walked toward the offices of the speaker of the House, Hernandez said.
"I couldn't quite hear what they were saying, but I did see Rep. Shooter put his hand on Dennis, and then I saw he flipped him off," Hernandez said. "But he did it in a way where he could say he was scratching his face. But he was doing it in a way that was very intentional."
Welch declined to comment about the incident.
Shooter, a top lawmaker who is helping negotiate the state's budget in behind-the-scenes meetings, admitted touching Welch in a "fatherly way."
"I called him 'Fake News Dennis,' " Shooter said, echoing President Donald Trump's well-worn line about the media.
"I did pat him on the shoulder, if that's touching him. I did that in a very patronly, fatherly way, like patting him. And he goes, 'Don't touch me.' I said, 'OK.' "
But the lawmaker denied gesturing at Welch using his middle finger.
"I didn't flip him off, that's silly," Shooter said. "I just scratched my eye. It could have been misinterpreted. People see in things what they want to see."
Hernandez said it was clear to him how Shooter intended it to be seen.
"I don't normally scratch my face with my middle finger," he said. "It's usually your index finger (you use) when you scratch your face. He did it with his middle finger ... which I took as giving him (Welch) the middle finger."
The station’s story, along with video of the encounter, will air this week.