Newspaper Men Fight on Senate Floor

The Charleston Gazette
February 15, 1907

Newspaper Men Fight on Floor of Senate

G. A. Laughlin Tweeked O. H. Booton's Nose, and Then Booton Tweeked Laughlin's

Hostilities Are Renewed Later

Two Lively Fisticuffs Between Managing Editor of Mail and Publisher of Wheeling Intelligencer

Before the echo of President McDermott's gavel, announcing the noon recess yesterday, had ceased to resound through the senate chamber, Mr. O. H. Booten, managing editor of the Charleston Mail, snatched the glasses from the nose of Mr. George A. Laughlin, publisher of the Wheeling Intelligencer, and the next instant a fist fight ensued, as the result of which the Wheeling man went sprawling to the floor.

Met Him at the Corner.

Three hours later the combatants met at the corner of Kanawha and Capitol streets, and hostilities were resumed. After both men had tussled about on the street for several minutes, friends separated them. Detective Howard Smith preferred charges against the newspaper men, and they appeared before justice Cotterell, who fined each $10 and cost.

The trouble between Messrs. Booten and Laughlin was engendered by references made by the former in articles appearing the Charleston News under the caption, "Politics and Politicians," over the nom de plume of "Gabber." The story which Mr. Laughlin particularly objected to was published several days ago, in which the Wheeling man was characterized as "a large ass." He was criticized rather severely for the stand he has taken in regard to the two-cent rate bill, he having come to the legislature, it is said, on his own account to watch measures he is interested in.

The First Nose-Tweeking.

Wednesday afternoon the two men met in front of the Kanawha National Bank, and Mr. Laughlin after calling Mr. Booten to account for the personal references in the newspapers proceeded to pull the latter's nose, declaring at the same time that he desired to show his utter contempt for one who deigned to write under a nom de plume. Mr. Booten, it is said, replied that if it were not that he was physically unable to do so he would resent the insult. He is alleged to have declared that on the first opportunity the affront would be squared.

It rested until the clash in the senate chamber yesterday at noon, when, it is declared by an eyewitness, the Charleston man walked squarely up to the Wheelingite, and jerking his glasses from his nose, tweeked that member in the same manner as his nostrils had been handled the day previous. It is said that immediately Mr. Laughlin clinched with his enemy, and, after a shake or two, struck at Mr. Booten, who responded with a stiff upper-cut squarely on the jaw, knocking Mr. Laughlin to the floor. Attorney Len Honnaker, it is said, rushed between the fighters and brought an end to the row.

When interviewed at the Hotel Ruffner last night, Mr. Laughlin said:

"Yes, that man:'who did you say he is?' (Booten, supplied the reporter).

"Well, whatever his name is; he came up either behind or at my side and struck me while I sat at the press table. I struggled to my feet and we clinched and blows were passed, after which we were separated.

"I realized at once the indignity offered the senate and decided to do nothing more then. After adjournment, about 5:15 o'clock, I met this man in company with a number of friends at the corner where the first encounter occurred. I said: 'Let us have this matter out,' and we got I am not very good on my feet, and we went down in the street and rolled around. At the Justice's court we were fined $13.50 for fighting.

"That is about all there is to it. Except I want to apologize to the people of Charleston for the whole affair. I am sorry it happened, but I felt wronged:that an injustice had been done and resented it. No man should be attacked thru the newspapers for differing with another on any subject. I have my opinion and give others the same right. I also apologized to the senate."

Mr. Booten's Story.

Mr. Booten told his story, and here it is:

"I have been writing in the News under the caption of "Politics and Politicians" and over the nom de plume "Gabbler." However, it is no secret who the author is. I did write things about Mr. Laughlin, criticizing him at times, but he should have taken his medicine. There was no occasion for resenting it in the manner he did. Wednesday afternoon he stopped me on the street and tweeked my nose, declaring he desired to show his utter contempt for me, who wrote under a nom do plume:that it was cowardly and I had no right to do it.

"I replied if it were not that I was physically unable to cope with him at that time I would resent the insult. However, I shall do so at the first opportunity, I told him. I had been sick and was weak or there would have been a different story to tell.

"I asked Mr. Laughlin if he had any trouble in finding out who wrote the "Gabber Stuff," when he replied he did go to considerable trouble to find the author of the cowardly attacks. I replied it was no secret and most anybody could have given him the name of the writer."

"The matter dropped until yesterday noon, on the senate floor, when I walked straight up to Mr. Laughlin who sat at the press table, snatched off his glasses and tweeked his nose as he had done mine. He struck at me and I struck back, landing on the face, as the result of which he went down. I never followed up my advantage, but walked away. Later he accosted me in front of the Kanawha National bank on Capitol street striking me first, when I returned with blows, grappling with him. We fell to the pavement, and I landed on top. Justice Cotterell fined us $10 and costs each. I appealed, believing I am not in the fault, and will test the case."