Wisconsin Representative Derrick Van Orden yelled at a group of teenage Senate pages early Thursday morning, calling them “lazy shits” and “jackasses.”
Senate pages are typically high school teens sponsored by their home state’s senator to help out in the chamber. When the Senate works late—as it was on Wednesday, as votes on the national defense bill stretched into Thursday—pages sometimes rest in the Capitol Rotunda. This week is their last in Congress before their session ends.
According to Punchbowl News, several pages were lying on the floor taking pictures of the building’s dome when Van Orden spotted them. He immediately began cursing at them, calling them “lazy shits” and ordering them to “get the fuck up.”
A Senate page wrote down a transcript of the interaction, which was later reported on in The Hill.
“Wake the fuck up you little shits.… What the fuck are you all doing? Get the fuck out of here. You are defiling the space you [pieces of shit],” Van Orden reportedly told the pages. “Who the fuck are you?”
After one of the kids clarified that they were Senate pages, Van Orden replied, “I don’t give a fuck who you are, get out.”
“You jackasses, get out,” he repeated.
Van Orden, for his part, defended his behavior, arguing that the Capitol Rotunda was used as a field hospital during the Civil War for Union soldiers.
“I would think that I’d be terribly disrespectful to lay on the grave of a soldier that died fighting for freedom,” Van Orden told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “And I don’t know anybody that disagrees.”
Van Orden did not seem to recognize that a hospital and a cemetery are two different things—and the Capitol Rotunda is neither one of them.
The Wisconsin Republican seems to have a penchant for bullying teenagers. In 2021, the then-candidate threatened a 17-year-old staff member at a local library, demanding to know who set up the Pride Month display of books. Van Orden went on to check out every book from the display so that they would not be available to other patrons.
The teenage employee went home and told her parents she no longer felt safe at work.