(CNN) – Several Republican members of Congress spoke at Tea Party protests around the country this week. Some were applauded. Others heckled. But only one, it appears, was booed relentlessly for the entire duration of his speech: Rep. Gresham Barrett of South Carolina.
Barrett, who voted in favor of the $700 billion bailout to stabilize the financial sector, despised by many of the demonstrators, knew what he was getting into. South Carolina grassroots conservatives have been blasting the congressman for months because of his vote on the Bush administration's bill last October. Previewing his Tea Party speech earlier this week, The Greenville News wrote that Barrett was headed “into the Lion’s Den.”
But that may have been an understatement, according to video of his remarks captured on Friday by the South Carolina political Web site “The Palmetto Scoop.” From the moment he was introduced to the Greenville crowd, his speech was drowned out by boos, turned backs and angry shouts “Go Home!”
“I know you’re mad,” Barrett said, prepared for the chilly reception. “I know you're frustrated, and I hear you, and the American people hear you, and that’s what this thing is about, it’s about people being heard.”
Barrett got one of the loudest jeers of the speech when he told the crowd: “You may boo, you may turn your back, but I have devoted my life to the conservative cause.”
The booing and shouting continued for the entire five minutes Barrett was on stage. When he pointed out that he recently introduced a bill called the TEA Act to stop wasteful government spending, one protested yelled repeatedly: “Too late!”
Much of this might have been forgotten if Barrett were returning to his safe seat in Congress in 2010, but the Westminster Republican is leaving the House to seek the South Carolina governorship next year. He’s gearing up for what’s likely to be a tough three-way Republican primary against Attorney General Henry McMaster and Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, a contest in which Barrett will almost certainly have to answer for his bailout vote.
Barrett spokesman B.J. Boling said the crowd’s reaction “was about what we expected” and stressed that the congressman’s “conservative credentials are unquestionable.” He noted that the National Journal has ranked Barrett as the fourth most conservative member of the U.S House.
“This is about disagreeing over one vote, and the congressman and the folks who were there agree on a whole lot more than just that,” Boling said. “He has a record of fiscal conservativism that I believe is unmatched in the House.”
The web site that captured the video has close ties to the consulting firm managing McMaster's gubernatorial bid against Barrett and Bauer.