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DC’s congressional delegate says she has ‘alibi’ for zebra escape

It’s all there in black and white.

Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), who represents the nation’s capital in the House of Representatives as a non-voting delegate, issued a tongue-in-cheek statement Friday denying having any role in the recent escape of a group of zebras from a Maryland farm.

Norton noted that the zebras were “let loose” some time on Labor Day weekend, “a period of time during which I was enjoying quiet time at home with family.”

Her statement continued: “My alibi is solid, but given my career of fighting for statehood for the District, which includes years of explaining the importance of having consent of the governed, and given my recent opposition to fences, I can understand why the charge was made. I hope the owners find the zebras and that all involved live long, full lives.”

Norton spokeswoman Sharon Eliza Nichols took credit for the statement, tweeting Friday that “I thought we deserved a ‘zebras on the run’ news cycle after living through most of 2021.”

Nichols explained to the Washington Post that she was inspired by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who in June 2013 jokingly denied playing a role in the escape of a red panda named Rusty from The National Zoo. (Rusty was eventually recaptured; the zebras so far have not been located.)

“She thinks I’m mischievous,” Nichols told the paper of her boss. “So I’ve gotten her to be onboard for this type of thing, and it’s worked. She has a history of enjoying funny bits, and recognizing how they can help her connect with constituents and sort of accomplish her legislative priorities.”

The 84-year-old Norton was elected to the House as DC’s delegate in 1990 and is best known for her years-long campaign for her hometown to be granted statehood — a quest that received support from President Biden earlier this year. In the weeks following the Jan. 6 riot by Trump supporters at the US Capitol, Norton also spoke out against the installation of permanent security fencing around the building.

The zebras (not the ones pictured) escaped Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
China News Service via Getty Ima
Norton is a non-voting delegate in the House of Representatives.
Norton is a non-voting delegate in the House of Representatives.
Allison Bailey/Shutterstock

“In the year 2021, fencing, a 19th-century approach to security, must not become our response to emergencies such as the failures of January 6th, when state-of-the-art 21st-century approaches are available and are more effective,” she said in July as the barriers put up after the riot were being removed. “We will never again allow our Capitol Hill neighborhood to be turned into a military zone any more than the Capitol itself.”

Nichols said Friday that while at least two reporters called her to ask if the statement was serious, “99.8 percent” of people got the joke.



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