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Why are these North Carolina lawmakers dancing? Video sparks controversy

By Daphne Sashin, CNN
updated 3:45 PM EDT, Thu August 1, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • iReporter says music and dancing on North Carolina House floor inappropriate
  • Her posting originally suggested GOP was doing victory dance
  • Rep. Paul Stam dismisses any criticism
  • Stam says lawmakers weren't "discussing any issues. It was a recess"

(CNN) -- A CNN iReport showing people dancing on the floor of the North Carolina House of Representatives near the end of its legislative session is causing a bit of a stir.

Carol Edmonds, 60, an iReporter known as SadTimesInNC, said she shot the video the afternoon of July 25 during a break in the second-to-last day of the session. That night, the state Senate passed a restrictive abortion bill, and the House approved controversial voter ID legislation.

The iReport was originally titled "NC House Dances With Joy Over Their Accomplishments" and suggested Republican lawmakers were doing a victory dance after a contentious session. The iReporter later changed the headline to "Opinion: Really? On The Day NC's Voters Rights Were Suppressed and Women's Rights Were Assaulted". Within a couple days, the video racked up nearly 100,000 page views and 31,000 people shared it on Facebook.

State Rep. Paul Stam, a Republican, told CNN that the musician playing in the video is his former legislative assistant, Christin Danchi, who is leaving for music school in the fall. The young woman performed a few classical numbers and finished with some bluegrass.

The man dancing in the video is state Rep. Phil Shepard, a Republican, and his dance partner is the principal clerk of the House, according to a report from CNN affiliate NBC Charlotte. A few others are seen taking pictures or clapping.

Edmonds was in the public gallery of the North Carolina House to document the proceedings. She has also attended most of the weekly demonstrations dubbed "Moral Mondays," organized by the NAACP to voice anger about a key part of the state's GOP agenda. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has dismissed Democratic criticism that he is only pushing a conservative agenda.

Edmonds acknowledged the music and dancing were unrelated to the passage of any bills but said any celebration on the floor was "totally disrespectful and inappropriate" given the gravity of issues the General Assembly was discussing that day and earlier in the session.

"I thought that it pretty much summed up the whole session, how out of touch the legislators had been and the disconnect with their actions to the reality of the people's lives," she said. "They're making such sweeping changes that are ... hitting people of all walks of life really hard."

Stam said in an e-mail to CNN that he received appreciative notes from Democratic representatives as well as Republicans about the young musician's performance. "We weren't discussing any issues. It was a recess. During that day we handled several dozen bills. ... I think the claim that it was inappropriate is silly."

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