The Hill is buzzing

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The Hill is buzzing today over a weird incident yesterday in which Sen. Bill Frist’s (R-TN) Chief of Staff Eric Ueland flipped out at a young AP reporter, Jonathan Katz, who had the temerity to ask Frist whether it was true that he had no idea how much stock he owned before he sold it off just ahead of the stock’s precipitous decline.

Roll Call (sub.req.) fills us in on what happened next …

After the off-camera dugout ended, Ueland “berated” and “bullied” the AP reporter, according to other reporters, for initiating the line of questioning. Ueland accused Katz of not understanding the issue after having been repeatedly briefed on the HCA matter.

One reporter said Ueland was “demeaning and rude” to the young AP journalist. Another veteran reporter said Ueland “went over the line” in “dressing the guy down” — in front of about 25 other reporters, no less. Yet another Senate reporter said, “It was outrageous. [Ueland] was yelling at the kid. And Eric is usually a very calm and cool guy.”

Reporters who attended the dugout said Frist looked rattled over questions about the HCA deal, which remains the subject of dual federal investigations, and speculated that perhaps Ueland snapped because Frist doesn’t have a good defense. They also noted that Frist has largely avoided cameras since the controversy broke and has moved his dugouts — when he holds them — into the Senate chamber, where cameras and tape recorders are prohibited.

“Now everyone’s talking about it. … Now I’m wondering if he’s gotten another subpoena. It makes me think there’s something going on,” one veteran journalist said.

Were you a reporter there for this off-camera presser? Drop me a line and let me know what you saw.

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