In the April 2000 brawl, the Journal reported that Johnson was punched in the side of the head during debate on the bill. No one was seriously injured, but the incident interrupted proceedings and the men were escorted out.
“I am very embarrassed that it happened and I have apologized to my colleague,” said Johnson at the time of the altercation with Rep. Bennett Malone, D-Carthage.
Malone supported a poultry bill which would have set up an arbitration panel to handle chicken farmers complaints, which include allegations of unfair market practices by producers.
“I was against the bill,” said Johnson, as reported by the Journal in 2000. “I had told some growers that it was government intervention with contracts and that I had some philosophical feelings of my own against the bill.”
Several senators had gotten up to speak against the bill, while others wanted to send the bill back to committee, which would have effectively killed it.
Johnson had apparently walked around to shake Malone’s hand when Malone reportedly told Johnson to go away.
Johnson insisted that Malone shake his hand and then put his own hands on Malone. Malone reportedly rose from the table where he was seated in the Senate chamber and struck Johnson.
“I extended my hand to him and he said ‘no, I’m not going to shake it,” said Johnson at the time. “At that point – and we are at arm’s length – there is some pushing and shoving. He hit me on the back of the head. It didn’t really hurt. I respect everybody down there. It’s unfortunate that it happened.”
The fight was broken up by security. Then-Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck suspended debate on the bill until things calmed down.
Madison County Journal