An extensive fact-finding journey by our friends at PolitiFact Wisconsin appears to have settled the debate over whether union-loving Wisconsin protesters ever put Governor Scott Walker's life in danger during a La Crosse event in February 2011, as the governor claims in his new book, "Unintimidated."
"As we prepared to leave, the state troopers saw that the protesters had physically blocked the entrance we had used to come onto the property," Walker writes. "So they turned the squad car around and headed toward the other exit. We watched in disbelief as the throng of people rushed toward the second exit to block our path. As we tried to pull out, they surrounded the car and began beating on the windows and rocking the vehicle."
"Just as we extricated ourselves from their grip, a truck pulled up and blocked our path, playing a game of chicken with the troopers," he continues. "They turned the lights and sirens on and warned him to get out of the way. Eventually he backed up, and we sped off."
But did this really happen? If the fact-finders at PolitiFact Wisconsin are to be believed, the answer is no, it did not.
The governor claimed that this harrowing encounter made him shift his whole security detail, start flying everywhere instead of driving, and ensure his family members had additional protection as well. His tall tale has since become a key hinge for his "Unintimidated" book, which depicts him as heroically standing up to the union thugs that run Wisconsin and fighting for conservative values against an onslaught of irrational liberal hatred.
Walker even went on the ultra-conservative Christian Broadcasting Network in November and agreed with former Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson that he was definitely in fear for his life during the confrontation. "We, at one point, coming out of a manufacturing business in La Crosse where they were literally shaking one of our squad cars that the State Patrol was in with me," he said.
However, there is no evidence to support any of this. From PolitiFact Wisconsin:
La Crosse Tribune editor Chris Hardie said reporter Chris Hubbuch and photographer Peter Thomson covered Walker's visit and watched his car leave the plant.
"Both Chris and Peter were standing outside when the governor left," Hardie said. "Neither of them remembers any kind of car rocking or the car being surrounded, that kind of thing."
The journalists reviewed a Google satellite view of the property and refreshed their memories about where they were standing in relation to Walker's car, Hardie said.
"They would have noticed if they were blocking and beating on his car," Hardie said. He noted, too, that the journalists would have also been alerted if they had seen flashing police lights or heard a siren from Walker's car -- something else the governor described.
They witnessed nothing of the sort.
PolitiFact also spoke to police officers on the scene, who told them there was no record of "misbehaving" protesters, no arrests and no truck that blocked Walker's exit route. Similarly, two officials who work with the company Walker was visiting said they did not see the same scene as what the governor describes.
Putting a final nail in Walker's lie, PolitiFact includes a video clip aired by WKBT-TV in La Crosse, which shows the group of protesters giving Walker's vehicle several feet of clearance on either side, and no truck blocking his exit.
In other words: Scott Walker made up an egregious lie about an event that was caught on tape and witnessed by hundreds of bystanders, and like a teenager who's been busted, he's refusing to let go of that lie despite all the facts.
Feeling intimidated by a crowd of disgruntled workers chanting pro-union slogans at you is one thing. Making up stories about said workers to give your presidential run an early boost is quite another.