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Sunday, March 21, 2010

GOP Leaders Denounce Racist Tea Party Behavior & Slurs

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GOP Leaders Disavow Protesters' Biased Epithets Toward Lawmakers

Nobody condones the racial epithets used toward black lawmakers on Saturday, the second-ranking House Republican said Sunday.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) disavowed the actions by some conservative, "Tea Party" activists who, on Sunday, used the N-word toward Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), and spat at Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.).

"Nobody condones that at all," Cantor said during an appearance on ABC. "There were 30,000 people here in Washington yesterday. And, yes, there were some very awful things said."

The actions toward the protesters drew quick rebukes from members of the Congressional Black Caucus and House Democrats as a whole.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), a gay lawmaker who also faced epithets yesterday based on his sexual orientation, called on the GOP to distance itself from the protesters, while Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) denounced Republican speakers at the rally and demanded they apologize for the actions of the protesters.

House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.), who was one of the speakers at the rally, said he decried the behavior of the protesters "in the strongest terms."

House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Sunday On NBC Meet the Press that the “isolated incidents” at the rally on Saturday were “reprehensible.” But he said that these “few isolated incidents” should obscure the fact millions of Americans fear the impact of the Democrats’ healthcare reform.

Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele said Sunday on NBC Meet the Press that the incidents were the result of “a handful of people “who just got stupid.”

Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) said that he welcomed debate on Sunday, but pleaded with Pence to ratchet down the tone of the debate.

Dem Rep Calls On GOP To Condemn Biased Slurs Hurled At Frank, Lewis

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) took to the House floor tonight to call on Republicans to "distance" themselves from the ugly epithets allegedly yelled at minority members of Congress by anti-health care reform protesters gathered on Capitol Hill today.

Ryan called on Republican pols who addressed today's anti-reform rally to "come out and condemn" the protesters for their alleged slurs against black members and Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), who is openly gay.

"This behavior is irresponsible it does not belong in a civilized society," Ryan said of the protests. Video after the jump.

Ryan seemed visibly upset by the allegations, but he didn't refrain from using a questionable phrase himself to describe the protesters.

"I wanted to come to the floor today after hearing about experiencing and reading some of the reports about what happened here today in the nation's capitol to some of the finest servants that this institution has ever seen by some of these tea bagger protesters who have been out today," he said.

Ryan said that that it was now up to the Republicans to condemn what was said.

"We call on the Republicans to say 'shame on you' to that kind of behavior," he said.

Tea Partiers Call Lewis 'N****r', Frank 'F****t', At Capitol Hill Protest

Tea partiers and other anti-health care activists are known to get rowdy, but today's protest on Capitol Hill--the day before the House is set to vote on historic health care legislation--went beyond the usual chanting and controversial signs, and veered into ugly bigotry and intimidation.

Civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and fellow Congressional Black Caucus member Andre Carson (D-IN) related a particularly jarring encounter with a large crowd of protesters screaming "kill the bill"... and punctuating their chants with the word "nigger."

Standing next to Lewis, emerging from a Democratic caucus meeting with President Obama, Carson said people in the crowd yelled, "kill the bill and then the N-word" several times, while he and Lewis were exiting the Cannon House office building.

"People have been just downright mean," Lewis added.

And that wasn't an isolated incident. Early this afternoon, standing outside a Democratic whip meeting in the Longworth House office building, I watched Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) make his way out the door, en route to the neighboring Rayburn building. As he rounded the corner toward the exit, wading through a huge crowd of tea partiers and other health care protesters, an elderly white man screamed "Barney, you faggot"--a line that caused dozens of his confederates to erupt in laughter.

After that incident, Capitol police threatened to expel the protesters from the building, but were outnumbered and quickly overwhelmed. Tea party protesters equipped with high-end video cameras were summoned to film the encounter and the officers ultimately relented.

After the caucus meeting, TPMDC's Evan McMorris-Santoro caught up with Frank, who reflected on the incident.

"I'm disappointed at a unwillingness to be just civil," Frank said. "[T]he objection to the health care bill has become a proxy for other sentiments."

"Obviously there are perfectly reasonable people that are against this, but the people out there today on the whole--many of them were hateful and abusive," Frank added.

Asked by TPMDC whether today's protesters were more hateful than at other rallies, Frank took issue with party leaders for aligning themselves with the movement.

I do think the leaders of the movement, and this was true of some of the Republicans last year, that they think they are benefiting from this rancor. I mean there are a couple who--you know, Michele Bachmann's rhetoric is inflamatory as well as wholly baseless. And I think there are people there, a few that encourage it.

"If this was my cause, and I saw this angry group yelling and shouting and being so abusive to people, I would ask them to please stop it," Frank concluded. "I think they do more harm than good."

Shortly thereafter, the same group of people surrounded Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) as he entered a first-floor elevator. Above the cacophony, I heard one man call Waxman a "crook" and a "liar."

"This is incredible," House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) told reporters of the slurs. "It's shocking to me." He said he hadn't heard such vitriol since March 15, 1960 when he was protesting segregation laws that forced him to sit in the back of buses. "A lot of us have been saying for a long time that much of this, much of this, is not about health care at all," Clyburn said. "I think a lot of those people today demonstrated this is not about health care."

What is it about, a reporter asked?

"It's about trying to extend a basic fundamental right to people who are less powerful."

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Sources: MSNBC, Meet The Press, TPM, Youtube, Google Maps

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