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. Neil

    We Democrats should not be surprised by these attacks of Racism and anti gay sentiment by these Republican supporters. The Conservative Right wing extremists have taught these Republican supporters very well just how twisted their values are.
    The Republicans have proven their leadership over the past 8 years to create massive dept, economic turmoil, Tax Breaks for the Wealthy and Companies at the expense of the American Economy. Their loyalties to the Rich and Corporations are clearly defined by their actions. Again It is blatantly obvious that the Republican allegiance to the Healthcare and Insurance Companies are more prevalent then their allegiance to the American People. It is who they are!! These Republicans have nothing to offer Middle class America but hardship. We Democrats must start getting far more aggressive with these Republicans, particularly when they perform attacks such as these.

    I am firmly support the President in reforming Healthcare. We Democrats have made enough concessions to these greedy Republicans who have made no concessions and still vote “NO” on everything. So Say “NO” to these Republicans from Now ON!!!!

    March 21, 2010 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  2. Mike

    I think the extreme right is going to screw up our unity and our country

    March 21, 2010 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  3. rmd

    Says a lot about the character of healthcare opponents.

    March 21, 2010 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  4. Stephen

    These Tea Party protesters have confirmed what three-quarters of Americans and the rest of the world thinks of them. They are racists, bigots, and ignorant fools who have been brainwashed by the extreme right-wing. Maybe those who thought that America had matured and had become more tolerant were wrong. What a sad day for America.

    Congress should pass Health Care Reform not only because it will be good for Americans, but so these Tea Party bigots squirm.

    March 21, 2010 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  5. Concerned Citizen

    Hurts my soul to see us take these steps backwards. To use a person race or sexual orientation as a means of leverage is just down right wrong!

    March 21, 2010 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  6. gd1972

    Tea Party= Ku Klux Klan wrapped in a shiny new package.

    March 21, 2010 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  7. Alfred E. Neumann

    Conservatives, some but not all, displaying what little class they have.

    Minds so small they could walk under a pregnant ant with a top hat.

    March 21, 2010 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  8. s.d.

    Sadly it does not surprise me to hear that health care reform protesters would hurl racial slurs at Congressman Lewis. We have known for the last year that most protesters are white males who can’t stand the thought of a black president. When these people bemoan losing their country, they are saying loud and clear the country they lost was the one being lead by a “white” president.

    March 21, 2010 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  9. kathie2ark

    Really? A CNN producer heard these things but it never occurred to him/her to turn on a camera? I find it really hard to believe that with all the media there, not to mention people with video cameras and cell phones, no one caught these outrageous actions on camera? Yeah right, here we go again, if you can't discredit opposition with a cogent response whip out the race card. How many times has CNN used the term "tea-bagger" to refer to a Tea Party protester? Obama's approval is rapidly approaching Bush's in record time, when will you start addressing the reasons why?

    March 21, 2010 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  10. Alex

    I wish this behavior was shocking but I know too many republicans who spout the same kind of ignorance every day. The deep seated racism on the right is the real reason behind their opposition of this health care reform. They don't hate it because of the money. It's purely a result of their defiance toward any plan that a black president would propose. You would think Obama invented taxation with the ire these bigots have toward him.

    March 21, 2010 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  11. Tony

    Is there any independent proof of their claims. Or is it possible that the black caucus would have a reason to paint the Tea Party as homo-phobic racists so as to more easily dismiss the Tea Party message of –Fiscal Responsibility–Fiscal Responsibility–Free Markets.
    But if it is true, it is sad that a few idiots can take the spotlight off the message of –Fiscal Responsibility–Fiscal Responsibility–Free Markets.

    March 21, 2010 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  12. Alonzo

    It is very unfortunate that the Health Care debate has degenerated to this level. I am an independent voter and I am not at all impressed with how the Republicans ( in and out of Congress – Senators and Representatives) have dealth with this issue. My sincere hope is that the majority of Americans are reasonable people and not accept this response by the members of the Republican Party. The elections in November may not be as they (Republicans and Pundits) say.

    I too am an "angry American" but I strongly believe in respect for the other person and civility to all.

    Racism is strong and alive in America whether you believe it or not.

    March 21, 2010 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  13. Anthony Silva

    Why is this hidden in the politics section and not on the main news page. This kind of disgraceful behavior needs to be exposed and condemned openly.

    March 21, 2010 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  14. J

    unbelievable that anyone could resort to such low childish tactics. It's amazing that this level or ignorance and hate still exist in the country.

    March 21, 2010 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  15. Brian in New York

    That's really nice. These are clearly the people we ought to be listening to in this debate.

    March 21, 2010 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  16. RBbrighton

    I've been against this health care bill from the start, but people who act with this sort of disrespect have no place in the debate. Even when we disagree, we have to be civil.

    We are all Americans, even when we can't understand each other's opinions. Let's all grow up.

    March 21, 2010 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  17. Mitchel

    I hope the American people can now truly see who is thinking of them and who are thinking only of themselves.

    As a hint, I've yet to here ANY instance of a liberal lobbying a racial insult towards RNC Chairman Michael Steele.

    March 21, 2010 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  18. tim

    This is what hate and fear breed. Thanks a lot Rush and Glenn.

    March 21, 2010 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  19. David

    Republican'ts, the party of no and the party of hate. Is it me are only white people against healthcare? When I see the Grand Old Party, I see sheets of white.

    March 21, 2010 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  20. stichintime

    What is wrong with the GOP that it encourages their people to act like animals? I will never vote for a GOP candidate!!!!! They are spreading hate and lies. It is a shame that the average person that is supporting the GOP doesn't realize that the party is backed by big insurance co. and is only interested in money.Why is the GOP is so interested in health care now. They had over eight years in control and did nothing.People are dying and losing their homes because of either the lack of medical insurance or the insurance co. dropping them. Beware GOP hate mongers you could be next . You could lose your job or your job could drop coverage and what will you do?

    March 21, 2010 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  21. Vern

    And we're supposed to take this so-called "Tea Party" movement seriously, with behavior like this? They're a bunch of bigoted, ignorant individuals. I have no doubt that many are concerned about the direction of the nation, and have legitimate beefs with Democrats on Health Care and other issues. But I'm also convinced that many are using this "movement" to try and bring legitimacy to racism and bigotry.

    If the Tea Party does not condemn these people, then they should be tossed in the trash heap of history. This as absolutely a disgrace to the United States.

    March 21, 2010 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  22. ThinkAgain

    Yep, that's the Republican party's base. Nothing but a bunch of loser racists, ignorant and totally devoid of common decency.

    And these people dare to say they represent "real America."

    They have no ideas and, apparently, they have completely succumbed to the Republican message of fear, hate and division.

    Pathetic, shameful, and a disgrace to our great nation. The founders of our country and all who have given their lives protecting our liberty and freedoms are rolling in their graves.

    March 21, 2010 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  23. Steve in Denver

    what a bunch of scum the tea partiers and the neocons are. These are also the same people who blame Democrats for the lack of civility in politics.

    March 21, 2010 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  24. Republicans are Retarded

    Way to go republicans. Taking the country back a few steps after we finally think this country actually is moving away from racism and sexual epitaphs.

    The hannity's, rush's and beck's of the world have poisoned the already ignorant and unintelligible right wing masses.

    Go health care! pass and make these idiot republicans lives better. they wont thank you later, and will somehow blame the democrats for their mistakes

    March 21, 2010 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  25. MCO

    And the teabaggers wonder why the average person has no respect for them or their positions. Time after time these people have shown themselves to be nothing but low-class hateful people who care nothing about nothing but themselves.

    March 21, 2010 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
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