Members of the Congressional Black Caucus leaving a speech on health care by the President yesterday were met by tea party protesters chanting “Kill the bill, nigger.” The incident has been confirmed by Congressmen John Lewis (D-Ga), Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo), Andre Carson (D-In), and House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC). Cleaver was spat on by a protester. In a separate incident, Barney Frank was called a “faggot” in what the Huffington Post describes as “deliberately lisp-y screams.”
Note: these are ugly words, but what happened yesterday was ugly. I want to make it clear how ugly.
The Tea Partiers were addressed at a rally earlier in the day by Representatives Mike Pence (R-IN), Tom Price (R-GA), and Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), and actor Jon Voight. Pence was not originally scheduled to address the crowd.
from Majority Leader Steny Hoyer
On the one hand, I am saddened that America’s debate on health care — which could have been a national conversation of substance and respect — has degenerated to the point of such anger and incivility. But on the other, I know that every step toward a more just America has aroused similar hate in its own time; and I know that John Lewis, a hero of the civil rights movement, has learned to wear the worst slurs as a badge of honor.
“It was a lot of downright hate and anger and people being downright mean,” said Lewis, who added that he was surprised and saddened that “people are so mean and we can’t engage in a civil dialogue and debate.”
The man whose skull was fractured when he was attacked during a 1965 civil rights march in Alabama said, “I haven’t heard anything like this in 40, 45 years. Since the march to Selma, really.”
“It was a chorus,” said Cleaver, who was spit on by protesters. “In a way, I feel sorry for those people who are doing this nasty stuff — they’re being whipped up.. I decided I wouldn’t be angry with any of them.”
Cleaver declined to press charges.
For many of the members of the CBC, like John Lewis and Emanuel Cleaver who worked in the civil rights movement, and for Mr. Frank who has struggled in the cause of equality, this is not the first time they have been spit on during turbulent times…
This is not the first time the Congressman has been called the “n” word and certainly not the worst assault he has endured in his years fighting for equal rights for all Americans. That being said, he is disappointed that in the 21st century our national discourse has devolved to the point of name calling and spitting…
I heard people saying things that I have not heard since March 15, 1960 when I was marching to try and get off the back of the bus
Barney Frank, in an interview with Talking Points Memo, drew the line back to the lawmakers speaking at the Tea Party rally
“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.
“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.”
as did Hoyer
Members of Congress and opinion leaders ought to come to terms with their responsibility for inciting the tone and actions we saw today,” Hoyer said. “A debate that began with false fears of forced euthanasia has ended in a truly ugly scene. It is incumbent on all of us to do better next time.
The Daily News is also reporting that Anthony Weiner had anti-semitic notes left in his office.