Patrick Howley's museum invasion: More questions

Patrick Howley (behind fellow in black T-shirt) in the vestibule of the National Air and Space Museum. (Photo: Cheryl Biden/


In the original version of this, I said Howley was holding a camera in the above photo; Cheryl Biren says it was someone with similarly colored sleeves standing nearby and that Howley does not have freakishly large forearms.

Cheryl Biren didn't notice Patrick Howley when a group of October 2011/Stop the Machine demonstrators walked to the Air and Space Museum on Saturday. She was keeping an eye on a large guy in a black T-shirt.


Patrick Howley's march to the National Air and Space Museum6 Photos

"I’ve been covering protests and marches for a very long time,"  says Biren, who was photographing the march for, "and you kind of get a feel for when something doesn’t quite fit."

The big guy, Biren says, was filming the proceedings but wasn't participating. She thought he might be a cop, or someone who wanted to discredit the proceedings. She barely noticed Patrick Howley, a lithe fellow with a quiff who is an assistant editor at the American Spectator, and was in fact, as he wrote later, marching alongside the October 2011 people to "mock and undermine" what was going down.

Howley, Biren says, "was an afterthought." That was until she read his account of the demo, which was far different from hers.

Biren says the aim of the march, which she says others called a "stroll," was to drop a banner protesting drone strikes in Afghanistan in the museum, which has an exhibit about unmanned military aircraft.  

They did it, Biren says. "There were people who walked in peacefully" she says, "and they were not arrested. The guards pulled [the banner] down and they escorted the people out of the building."

Back in the vestibule, however, there was trouble. Biren says Howley and the big guy in the black T-shirt were the sole instigators.

The American Spectator has published at least two versions of Howley's story (early, later), and Biren sent me a screen shot of what looks like an even earlier version than the those two. At no point has the American Spectator acknowledged the changes that appear to have been made to the piece, including editing out Howley's statement that he was at the march to "mock and undermine."

TBD left messages for everyone on the masthead, including Howley, on Monday. I called Howley Thursday morning and was told his voicemail was full and left a message with a staffer. He hasn't called back. I left another message with American Spectator's editor-in-chief, R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., as well, and will update this story if either gets back in touch.

It's not just big stuff like whether the goal was to invade the museum that shakes Howley's piece. Howley said in his first versions that the confrontation was with a "300-pound guard," later changed to a "heavyset guard."

Biren disputes the characterization of the guard as 300 pounds or heavyset: "If you look at that guard i could have taken him."

In the vestibule
A man who appears to be Howley (here's his work photo), behind the guy in the black T-shirt, who is confronting a guard. (Photo: Cheryl Biren/

Howley also writes about his fellow marchers/strollers:

Socialist indoctrination methods are surprisingly effective. It's hard not to get swept up in the Movement when you're among a hundred foot soldiers -- most of them attractive 20-year old girls -- marching down E Street toward Freedom Plaza chanting, "How do we end the deficit? End the war and tax the rich!" Whenever the protesters would pass a group of tourists they'd implore them to join, and when a few smiling college kids would hesitantly jump in everyone would applaud wildly.

Here are some photos of Howley marching. Maybe the  20-year-olds split early?

Howley marching
(Photo: Cheryl Biren/
Howley marching
(Photo: Cheryl Biren/
Howley marching
(Photo: Cheryl Biren/

The details inside the museum, as I've previously written, seem a bit off to me, from the "gawking old housewives" who watched him tear through the exhibition hall to the "hundreds of stunned khaki-clad tourists" who "began snapping off disposable-camera portraits of me."

Right. Hundreds of people, many of them carrying disposable cameras, in October 2011.

Biren says she still hasn't found out who the guy in the black T-shirt is; he was outside after the vestibule incident, she says, sparring with a SWAT team member.

She believes that guy was a real agent provocateur; I suggested that he might have just been a meathead. "He could be," she says. "I just hope people down there [at the protests] will figure out what he’s about if he’s staying around."

As for Howley, she says: "i just couldn’t believe it when I got back to the hotel and I came across his article. my mouth dropped open; I was thinking, who the heck is this punk?"