WASHINGTON — House Homeland Security Committee members were stunned Thursday as one of their colleagues became overexposed during a virtual hearing, revealing a his bare belly jutting out over what appeared to be either pajamas or boxer shorts.
Rep. Donald Payne Jr.’s stomach was on full display as his too-small-for-comfort Capt. America T-shirt gave way to a bare abdomen when he rose from an unmade bed during the early-morning hearing with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who testified about Biden administration budget requests.
The gut-buster drew some amusing reactions on the Zoom call.
Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) covered her mouth in shock as Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) continued speaking to Mayorkas — ironically, about cybersecurity — apparently oblivious to the view.
Rep. Beth Van Duyne (R-Texas) shared the video, tweeting, “Another reason Democrats should get off Zoom and back to work. #TheStruggleIsReal.”
Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) slammed Payne’s conduct, writing, “If taxpayers are paying you $174,000 per year, getting out of bed and putting some clothes on for work seems like it should be a minimum requirement.”
Payne said in a statement, “As a public servant, my focus has always been the public good and my work to better the lives of my constituents and all Americans, regardless of the circumstances.”
A Payne staffer came to his defense on Twitter, saying the Newark and Orange, NJ, representative was being unfairly fat-shamed.
“It’s no secret that as a diabetic the Congressman has his weight struggles. But we try to stick to policy here in Congress,” wrote Payne legislative director Sam Morgante.
Payne’s aide added: “Given your interest in Men’s Health, I’m a little surprised you haven’t joined our resolution in honor of Men’s Health Week. There’s still time to join though, we’d be happy to add you! We’ve also got the Colorectal Cancer Payment Fairness Act, H.R. 2594, which closes a Medicare loophole that leaves colonoscopy patients with a surprise bill if a polyp is removed during the procedure.”
The video of Payne was not publicly broadcast and appears to have been visible only to participants in the virtual hearing. It’s unclear if any House rules were violated either by Payne or by Republicans who circulated the clip.
Payne appears to have stripped down after wearing a dress shirt and tie about a half-hour earlier in the hearing, which was scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. A teal wall with photographs was in the backdrop in both shots.
Payne focused on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, asking Mayorkas, “Can you assure this committee that DHS failure to issue a threat assessment was not part of an attempt by the Trump administration to leave the Capitol and Congress undefended?”
Mayorkas said he was focused on “lessons learned.”
Payne, 62, was first elected in 2012, inheriting the seat from his father Donald Payne Sr., who held the lopsidedly Democratic seat since 1989.