Christian conservative radio personality, author and "VeggieTales" writer Eric Metaxas has responded to a video that went viral on social media Friday showing him hitting a rioter who was verbally threatening and cursing at him and other guests leaving the White House on the fourth night of the Republican National Convention.
Metaxas, 57, who gained prominence with his biographies of influential Christian figures William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, has faced some criticism after a video posted online showed him taking a swing at a rioter who cycled past him on a Washington street while cursing at him and other supporters of the president and last Thursday.
The video shows the rioter cycling past Metaxas and others as he screams at them. Then, Metaxas runs toward the agitator and takes a swing at the back of his head. A woman near the encounter then shouts, “Eric!”
The bicyclist gets off his bike and yells: “You just attacked me, bro! That’s a felony!”
Metaxas — wearing white pants, a suit jacket and a pink shirt — jogs backward as the rioter pursues him. After the rioter stops chasing Metaxas, he starts cursing at others in the group who had just left the White House.
“F--- you, you Republican piece of s---,” the rioter shouts in the face of an elderly man, yelling, “What are you going to do? You ain't s---, you old a-- man.”
The bicyclist is then met by Secret Service officers who force him away from the RNC attendees as one is heard telling the agitator to “grow up!”
In an email sent to World Magazine on Monday, Metaxas said he would not offer much comment on the video and said that he had chosen to stay off social media for a couple of days.
“For context, just so you know, the guy came at me with his bike and was very menacing for a long time,” Metaxas explained, adding that he was escorting his wife and Bishop Harry Jackson to an Uber.
Metaxas is now back on social media, regularly posting and retweeting tweets about Black Lives Matter, Antifa, riots, Democrats and violence in the streets of American cities.
“When Antifa/BLM claim to care about Black lives, understand they will say & do ANYTHING to destroy the America they hate,” Metaxas wrote in a tweet Tuesday. “They would have killed George Floyd if it would have helped them.”
Jackson, who serves as the senior pastor at Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland, and is a co-founder of The Reconciled Church Initiative, detailed what he witnessed in downtown Washington that night in an interview with World Magazine.
The pastor said that after they left the White House following Trump's acceptance speech, he and the Metaxases walked for about 10 minutes down a street. Jackson said that during the walk, some rioters cursed at them.
Jackson explained that when they turned down a side street to catch an Uber, the rioter on the bicycle swerved close to Metaxas while cursing at them and the president.
Jackson believes that the bicyclist was “playing chicken” with Metaxas by using his bike, referring to an action that tests the nerve of the intended target. Jackson said that the bicyclist came within a few inches of Metaxas but was not sure if Metaxas was physically touched.
Jackson said that he wondered at the time whether he would need to use his walking cane as a defense during the intimidating encounter.
The Christian Post reached out to Metaxas for comment on the incident. A response is pending.
According to journalist Andy Ngo, the agitator on the bicycle was identified as Anthony Paul Harrington of Portland, Oregon.
Ngo tweeted that Harrington has a “long criminal history in Oregon and appears to have traveled to Washington D.C. to participate in the anti-police protests there.”
In an earlier tweet, Ngo, who has extensively covered the violence and unrest in Oregon, reported that Harrington had previously been “convicted in Portland for being a felon in possession of gun & robbing someone at gunpoint.”
While some on social media, including at least one progressive evangelical thinker, have been critical of Metaxas in the wake of the video, evangelical author Rod Dreher appears to defend Metaxas in a blog post published by The American Conservative.
“One more time for the people in the back: Eric Metaxas should not have punched the lout,” Dreher wrote. “[B]ut that’s not to say the lout didn’t deserve it.”
“I could be wrong about this, but I don’t think this is going to hurt Eric with his radio audience — and no, not for Trumpy, hero-punched-a-hippie reasons. I sense that a lot of people are simply fed up with these dirtbags and their intimidating meanness,” Dreher continued. “All over downtown DC last night, crowds of protesters were verbally and physically threatening folks coming from the White House, or in any way indicating support for the president.”
Apologist and author Larry Alex Taunton also came to Metaxas’ defense in an op-ed, noting that Jackson detailed how the man continually veered toward the Metaxases.
“Metaxas, understandably feeling that he and his wife were threatened, took a wild … swing at the thug, largely missing his intended target but causing him to swerve and wreck,” Taunton wrote. “Susanne [Metaxas] hurried to the car and Eric … did the same while the man hellbent on tormenting RNC attendees pursued, shouting obscenities as he went.”
Taunton further argued that “protesters are constantly filming their own provocations in the hope of capturing something that can be used to malign the objects of their hatred.”
“Unsurprisingly, this was filmed and was rapidly uploaded and fed to the Left’s bloodthirsty social media allies who wasted no time in doing what they do,” Taunton wrote.
Taunton explained that “the prevailing moral reasoning [on social media] seemed to be that one is never justified in physically defending himself unless he is first physically assaulted.”
He pushed back against those on Twitter arguing that Metaxas “sucker punched” the bicyclist. Taunton asked if the people making such an argument online would not “defend” their wife, children or country if they were put in such a situation.
“Tweets of this kind undoubtedly make their senders feel morally superior, but they are detached from reality,” Taunton contends.
“Antifa and Black Lives Matter protesters are trained to agitate, to provoke, to terrify. The legal term — I was told this by an actual lawyer — is ‘menacing.’ Who among us hasn’t seen the videos of these menacing hooligans intimidating, physically crowding, shouting, bullying police, churchgoers, counter-protesters, and anyone with whom they disagree?”
Commenting on Taunton’s blog post, Pastor Scott Christensen of Summit Lake Community Church in Mancos, Colorado, tweeted that nothing Metaxas did was “praiseworthy” or “blameworthy.”
“He simply did what any normal human being would do when threatened,” Christensen wrote. “God gave us all a sense of self-preservation. Plus the instinct to protect one’s wife.”