"I snapped. I absolutely snapped and I can't explain it any other way," said Chris Reichert of Victorian Village, in a Dispatch interview.
In his first comments on an incident that went viral across the Internet and was repeatedly played on cable television news shows, Reichert said he is sorry about his confrontation with Robert A. Letcher, 60, of the North Side. Letcher, a former nuclear engineer who suffers from Parkinson's, was verbally attacked as he sat before anti-health care demonstrators in front of Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy's district office last week.
"He's got every right to do what he did and some may say I did too, but what I did was shameful," Reichert said. "I haven't slept since that day."
"I made a donation (to a local Parkinson's disease group) and that starts the healing process."
Earlier this week, Reichert, 40, denied any involvement in a confrontation featured in a Dispatch video that drew an emotional response from viewers across the country.
"I wanted this to go away, but it won't and I'm paying the consequences," Reichert said.
He said he's fearful for his family after reading comments about his actions on the Internet.
"I've been looking at the web sites," he said. "People are hunting for me."
The demonstration took place just days before the House voted on health-care reform legislation, drawing hundreds of supporters and opponents. Kilroy herself condemned the action, entering a link to the video into the Congressional Record. Ohio Democrats plan to use the incident to raise money.
When Letcher sat down in front of opponents and held a sign indicating that he had Parkinson's disease, an unidentified man berated him, saying, "If you're looking for a hand-out, you're on the wrong end of town."
Reichert then stepped from the crowd, bent down, pointed a finger in Letcher's face and as he tossed a pair of dollar bills yelled, "I'll pay for this guy. Here you go. Let's start a pot, I'll pay for you. I'll decide when to give you money. Here. Here's another one."
Organizers on both sides of the debate quickly condemned the actions of Reichert and the other man, who still has not been identified. Reichert, a registered Republican, said he is not politically active. He said he heard about the rally on the radio and a neighbor invited him to attend.
"That was my first time at any political rally and I'm never going to another one," Reichert said.
"I will never ever, ever go to another one."