Did you hear the one about the bartender who threatened House Speaker John Boehner?
It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it’s deadly serious. Michael Hoyt, a 44-year-old man who has been treated for mental illness in the past, was indicted Jan. 7 for threatening to murder the Ohio congressman. Hoyt told investigators he wanted to shoot the speaker and that he could have put something in his drink.
“Can’t make this stuff up,” Boehner said when asked about the case Wednesday morning.
Hoyt worked for more than five years at the Wetherington Golf and Country Club in West Chester, Ohio, where Boehner was a member. The criminal complaint says Boehner remembered Hoyt, but did not recall having had any negative interactions with him. When he was fired from that job, Hoyt blamed Boehner in part and told investigators he believed he was Jesus Christ and that Boehner was the devil. He also talked about hearing voices.
Bizarre as the case may be, it highlights the fact that bars have long been part of Boehner’s persona. The speaker is a long-time smoker who is known for his deep tan and for his appreciation for a good merlot. He often reminds audiences that he “grew up in a bar” – Andy’s Cafe – and has 11 brothers and sisters on all rungs of the economic ladder and says that shows he knows what life is like for ordinary Americans.
“I mopped floors,” he said in September 2011. “My grandfather owned this bar. My dad ran it for 45 years. My sister ran it until a few years ago. I like to tell people all the skills I learned growing up are the skills I need to do my job.”
In fact, CNN’s Dana Bash interviewed that sister, Lynda Boehner Meineke, at the bar, during the 2012 campaign.
And a video released by the speaker’s office in January 2011 entitled “Boehner Family Reunion at Andy’s Cafe” shows Boehner making a trip to the bar where he is joined by 10 of his siblings, with a “60 Minutes” camera crew in tow. It isn’t a fancy place. The tavern has a simple sign hanging outside that reads “Andy’s Cafe Family Dining” and with an image of a frothy stein of beer. The video caption notes the bar was founded by Boehner’s grandfather, Andrew Boehner, in 1938 and that a photo of his father, the late Earl Boehner, still hangs on the wall near the cash register.
As speaker these days, Boehner spends a lot of time on the road headlining fundraisers for the GOP and wining and dining with donors at fancy country clubs and restaurants. It’s a long way from Andy’s Cafe. But while the Boehner family no longer owns the spot, that bar lore continued this past week with the opening of the 114th Congress. In nominating Boehner to serve once again as speaker, Republican Conference chair Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers also spoke about his storied history at Andy’s.
“He grew up mopping floors and waiting tables at his family tavern,” she said on the House floor. “He is a reformer who works everyday to make government more accontable to the people. For all of this he calls himself a regular guy with a big job.”
With Hoyt under arrest and facing criminal charges, the speaker’s office has said they will not comment on whether they plan to beef up Boehner’s security.
Enhanced protection or not, the Hoyt arrest adds one more chapter in Boehner’s collection of bar stories.