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Wearing Hoodie In Congress: Fair Protest or Disrespectful?

Wednesday, 28 Mar 2012 | 8:20 PM ET

Congressman Bobby Rush staunchly defended his decision to don a hooded sweatshirt on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday on CNBC's “The Kudlow Report.”

The move, a protest in the killing of Trayvon Martin, got Rush ejected from the chamber for violating the dress code.

On Feb. 28, the unarmed 17-year old was shot dead by George Zimmerman, a self-described neighborhood watch captain who claimed self-defense under Florida’s “stand your ground” law and has not been charged.

The floor of the House, Rush argued, “should not ever be disconnected nor distant from the cries of the American people for justice. That’s one of the reasons I wore the hoodie to the floor."

Rep. Rush, Hoodie on the Hill?
Was wearing a hoodie and sunglasses on the House floor disrespectful? CNBC's Larry Kudlow, and Rep. Bobby Rush, (D-IL), discuss whether the Congressman was trivializing a very serious issue.

In an interview that at times became heated, host Larry Kudlow said, “It goes without saying that the loss of life is a tragedy ... but I do feel that Congressman Rush's actions were not defensible. It just desecrated the people's House. It trivialized a very serious case. I worry that it makes a mockery of Congress itself.”

“I most deeply disagree with you,” Rush said, adding that he thought Kudlow’s conclusions were at “the extreme edges.”

“The hoodie is nothing more than an item of clothing,” Rush said. And the fact that it could be one of the causes that leads to someone’s death “is an atrocity that far outweighs what I might have done on the floor,” he said.

Rush, a Democrat from Illinois, called it part of a larger pattern of black men being racially profiled and arrested.

“This pattern exists and has existed for a long time in this nation, and it needs to come to a halt,” he said.

Rush said he wanted to encourage the protesters who brought the killing of Martin into the spotlight.

“I as a member of Congress, I as an adult, I as an African American father whose son has been killed on the streets of Chicago, I as a person who cut my teeth in the civil rights movement, I want to encourage them to keep on, don’t allow anyone, the media, don’t allow anyone to discourage them,” he said. “I wore a hoodie because I wanted to identify with them and tell them to keep demonstrating, because be it not for them we wouldn’t even be discussing Trayvon Martin.”

Rush’s son, Huey, was shot dead on the streets of Chicago in 1999.

“I’ve come to this House with my experiences informing me, inspiring me and in some instances inflaming me, so don’t ever think that you’ll see Bobby Rush not representing his true self and his higher self just because I’ve taken an oath of office as a member of Congress. I wasn’t elected to do that, and I will never compromise those principles,” he said.

Rush also blasted the idea of decorum in light of racial issues.

“Decorum — and our reverence and our worship of decorum — is one of the reasons for the problems we have right now,” he said. “Let’s put some decorum aside when it comes to dealing some of the gut, real issues Americans are facing.”

As the interview drew to a close, Rush doubled down on his stance.

“Horrible incidents certainly mean that we should take extraordinary measures in order to deal with the horrible issues,” he said. “Speak up, young people. Stand up and speak up, young people.”

Tune in:

"The Kudlow Report" airs weeknights at 7 p.m. ET.

Questions? Comments, send your emails to: lkudlow@kudlow.com

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  • Lawrence Kudlow is a CNBC senior contributor. Previously, Kudlow was anchor of CNBC's prime-time program "The Kudlow Report"