March 20th, 2010
08:19 PM ET
5 years ago

Protesters hurl slurs and spit at Democrats

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Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis was the target of racial slurs on Saturday.
Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis was the target of racial slurs on Saturday.

Washington (CNN) - Civil rights icon and veteran Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, said anti-health care bill protesters Saturday repeatedly yelled the "N" word at him as he left a heath care meeting and walked to the Capitol.

"I haven't seen heard anything like this in more than 40 years, maybe 45." Lewis said. "Since the march from Selma to Montgomery really."

"Yeah, but it's okay," Lewis added. "I've faced this before. So, it reminded me of the 60's. There's a lot of downright hate and anger and people are just being downright mean."

The incident was confirmed by Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indiana, who was walking with Lewis at the time. Protesters were yelling, "'kill the bill, kill the bill' and the 'N' word several times," Carson said.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Missouri, released a statement late Saturday saying he too was called the "N" word as he walked to the Capitol for a vote and that he was spat on by one protestor who was arrested by U.S. Capitol Police. Cleaver declined to press charges against the man, the statement said.

Protesters also hurled anti-gay comments at Rep. Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts, who is openly gay, as he left the same health care meeting that Lewis attended in a House office building.

A CNN producer overheard the word "faggot" yelled at Frank several times in the lobby of the Longworth building. Frank said he heard someone yell "homo" at him.

"I'm disappointed," Frank said. "There's an unwillingness to be civil."

Frank, who said he rarely hears such slurs anymore, said the health care issue has become "the proxy for a lot of other sentiments. A lot of which are perfectly reasonable but some of which are kind of ugly."


Filed under: Barney Frank • Health care • John Lewis • Popular Posts
soundoff (303 Responses)
  1. JP

    How is it that with the media barrage on capital hill, the only mention of racial slurs as part of the health care protests comes from two congressmen who support the bill. The very same bill that an overwhelming majority of the citizens of this country oppose.

    I'm not saying these accusation are fabricated, however it would be naive to think that the democrats wouldn't stoop to any level to pass this crockery. This is not a racial issue.

    March 21, 2010 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  2. Markus

    Tea party members are Americans, and passionate Americans at that. Saying Slurs is just a use of creative vocabulary to get attention. The fact that they used the n-word to get a black man's attention, is nothing special. Rap stars use the word all the time to get attention. In context of this passionate debate, it can be justified.

    March 21, 2010 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  3. Kentucky

    Can anyone say ignorance? Pass health reform Sunday!

    March 21, 2010 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  4. charles bowen

    Let me spell it out for you. The problem with America is republican obstructionist christian fundementalist far right winged liars who support every hair brained idea that their party puts forth..The house is divided and will soon fall. the red will fight the blue and our union will cease to exist. Compromise or Die this is democracy . charles bowen

    March 21, 2010 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  5. carol petrie

    I truely believe these "teabag people" are using the healthcare bill as a means to express their hatred for anyone who isn't white and heterosexual. These same people were silent for eight years while then President Bush borrowed money and drove our Country into debt for tax cuts for the rich. We now have a black President who is trying to do something right for all of us, and he is called a socialist. No matter what it's called, I stand with President Obama.

    Carol Petrie
    Greenville, SC

    March 21, 2010 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  6. Spider

    Just an observation--

    Why is it that we have to use N word as a reference to a widely known negative racial epitath, but there's no problem spelling out and quotating equally derisive words relating to sexual preferences?

    March 21, 2010 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  7. eric

    kill the bill you losers

    March 21, 2010 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  8. Brian

    i hate the bill (and have no respect for the dems) as much as anyone, but this behavior is sad. There are so many conservatives and intelligent independents/dems that are opposed to this health care approach, but they are overshadowed by ignorant low-lifes.

    March 21, 2010 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  9. Ana

    If true, that's absolutely detestable behavior. And it's distressing both for the people who the slurs were directed at, and for the movement to be tarred by a few extremists in their midst. Sentiments and language like that should have no place in our society.

    On another note, I'm surprised to hear Rep. Frank bemoan the lack of civility, as he's used sexual slurs in the past to refer to the protesters. Maybe he and the tea partiers can come to an agreement not to attack one another's sexualities in the future, and focus solely on the issues.

    March 21, 2010 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  10. Jen

    It has always been about race for the teabaggers. They can't handle a black man as president, so their true colors are coming out! Shameful & I hope this group of people destroys themselves.

    March 21, 2010 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  11. Janice Davis

    This is sad! sad! sad! Here we are in 2010 and this is still happening. It makes me so d_ _ angry. What is the proability of all republicans voting no on healthcare reform, this is pure racism!! Why? Because a black man is the leader of the free world. Where were all these protestors and congressmen when son's, brother's, fathers, mother's, etc. were being mamed in Iraq and for what. Pass Healthcare Reform Now. I worked in the healthcare system and it is just as bad as politics.

    March 21, 2010 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  12. Marcy Magatelli

    On behalf of the sane majority of Americans, I would like to publicly apologize to Reps. Lewis, Cleaver and Frank, for having to endure such shameful insults, while trying to due their duty, as elected officials of our country. I am so, so sorry that anyone, for any reason, woul have to hear such terrible things. I commend you for your ability to keep your cool, under such attacks and want to remind you that these comments, and the people who are making them, do NOT represent, more than just themselves. Most Americans have evolved way, way past that ugly period in American history, and are ready to move onward to a more civil, respectful society, where these ignorant fools with be completely extinct. Thank you for your service, and I wish you better respect, in the future.

    March 21, 2010 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  13. Dan, Ohio

    How sad we have come to this type of civil disrespect. I just don't understand how people could be so against something that will help so many. It seems many are afraid of change and only spout out right wing sound bites that make their cause seem justified.

    March 21, 2010 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  14. eric

    vote that bum obama out !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! now he is sick in the head

    March 21, 2010 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  15. Bill McDonald

    It is unfortunate that rather than being a catalyst for change, President Obama has unwittingly become a lightning rod or the incredible and palpable amount of racism and bigotry that still exists in our country. The oppositions arguments are based on hatred and ignorance rather than compassion. Never have I seen such selfishness as has been exhibited in the health care debate. The sentiments expressed are, "I have have health care... my fellow citizens go to hell"

    March 21, 2010 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  16. J Carlson

    Sad, but not unexpected given the type of people who make up the mob assailing the bill.

    Says a lot about the country, not much of it good.

    March 21, 2010 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  17. eric

    we need bush !!!

    March 21, 2010 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  18. Sally

    I'm not surprised at this behavior. After all, the Republicans have lied and distorted everything about the healthcare bill...it may not be perfect but it is actually a great improvement on the present system. The tea partiers scream about death panels but the real death panels are the insurance companies which deny coverage for necessary care.

    March 21, 2010 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  19. ok

    wow i dont like certain things in the bill too but why take a step back into the 1700s?

    March 21, 2010 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  20. bob

    Can always count of Republicans to want to bring back the good ol days of discrimination.

    March 21, 2010 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  21. cdlr

    That's not at all surprising. That's what the Republican party has become, the party of angry white southern bigots. How ironic is that.

    March 21, 2010 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  22. Native Texan

    Not surprised at all. Conservatives typically resort to hate when they don't get their way. Sad....

    March 21, 2010 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  23. Tish Obama 2012!

    This is truly a black eye on our country! I blame the Republicans and all the right wing talk radio! They won't be satisfied until someone gets killed! They are constantly playing with fire by playing on peoples fears!They have truly shown there true colors they are the party of "RACIST!" They don't even represent the country there's no diversity in their party just all white angry men! We need a rainbow of colors in congress and the Senate that represent the country! The REAL AMERICA! Americans who are Black,Latino,White, Asian, Muslim, Native American! Gay!Straight!! WE ARE THE PEOPLE!! Republicans are Racist!! We don't need that in this country, let's show them that way of thinking is in the minority! We are the majority! Vote Democratic! They get the job done!!

    March 21, 2010 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  24. geoff beneze

    I dislike hearing the racial taunting or the incivility in general.

    However, I have to wonder if the recipients might wish to consider the "will of the people" in the case of this health care issue, rather than blindly supporting Obama when it is obvious the American people are opposed to him in this case.

    March 21, 2010 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  25. eric

    "I haven't seen heard anything like this in more than 40 years, maybe 45." Lewis said. "Since the march from Selma to Montgomery really."
    now you have now stop OBAMA stop him now !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!stop cap and tax or trade just stop stopstop now he is killin jobs obama is slow in th head

    March 21, 2010 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
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