Thu, Nov 22, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Lawmaker attacks TV host


A Venezuelan lawmaker repeatedly slapped a journalist in the face during a TV program, accusing him of slander after he wrote about the death of her infant son years ago.

Congresswoman Iris Varela stormed onto the set of Gustavo Azocar's morning program on Tuesday in the southwestern state of Tachira, shouting: "I'm demanding a right of reply from this man who has offended me all the time on this program."

The on-air confrontation, in which Varela slapped Azocar several times and then hit him with the microphone, grabbed national attention in Venezuela and is likely to generate a wider debate in the country about free speech issues and the news media.

Azocar is an outspoken critic of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Varela is one of Chavez's close allies in the National Assembly.

Varela said her outrage had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with a dishonorable airing of her private life.

"He's offended me and he meddled with the most sacred thing, my dead son, and that's why I came," Varela said, holding the microphone after snatching it from Azocar while on camera.

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