March 20th, 2010
08:19 PM ET
4 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. Carolyn Jones

    This is not surprising at all – the entire Tea Party and Republican movement is based on racism, it does not change the fact that the GOP is only interested in protecting their pockets and big business that continue to fill the pockets......that also goes for the Dems. who Refuse to vote Yes on Health Care!!

    March 21, 2010 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  2. Janice

    Rep. John Lewis should be revered, not reviled. This behavior is beneath contempt. We all need to stand up and speak out about this. We cannot let behavior like this go unnoticed.

    March 21, 2010 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  3. bsd

    Proof or your lying CNN.

    March 21, 2010 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  4. Mitch

    Why print the "f" word and not print the "n" word? I don't understand how CNN is okay with that...

    March 21, 2010 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  5. Charles

    just shows how racist this country really is along with the racist Republican Party with there token negro Michael Steel

    March 21, 2010 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  6. ThinkAgain

    God bless all the Congress and Senate members willing to do the right thing and stand up to the hateful fear-mongering !

    Keep up the good work, Rep. Frank, Lewis, Carson, Cleaver and all the others – we're behind you all the way!!!!

    March 21, 2010 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  7. Eric

    it is just sad to see how fox news and the right wing have join to speak on behalf of the KKK. for some republicans it is "my way o noway" !

    March 21, 2010 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  8. darrin

    this is not surprising...nothing more than ignorance at it's best....Americans are an embarrassment to the human race.

    March 21, 2010 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  9. Amy , OH

    This behavior by these so-called "Americans" is unacceptable. I am so ashamed. Rep. Frank said he was disappointed: I am disappointed, embarrassed and saddened. This country is losing its heart....and its mind.

    March 21, 2010 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  10. jvanfire

    Every tea partier in the country should be closely examining whether they wish to be associated with the level of incivility and outright foul behavior exhibited in recent days by these people. I truly fear for the future of our country when this type of behavior is tolerated, encouraged and deemed acceptable by the "leaders" of this movement. Talk of armed insurrection and secession (again!) cannot be far behind from these sociopaths.

    March 21, 2010 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  11. Ladybug212

    What in the world has happened to society. There is absolutely no excuse for this type of behavior. Where was the outrage when we went into Iraq and thousands of young men and women lost there lives for nothing ... and billions and billions spent for nothing? Why didn't you speak out then? I am ashamed the world has seen Americans behave this way...we are still a racist society!

    March 21, 2010 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  12. Anonymous

    The Party of No continues to bait the extremists in their party and this is what happens. It's really sad to see these people lose all civility exposing them for what they are, soul-less wastes of space.

    March 21, 2010 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  13. Tony Bui, used to be Rep.

    Some of the protesters acted worst than mad dogs. Atleast mad dogs didn't think. How sad!

    March 21, 2010 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  14. Joe Doctor

    Baby steps. If we don't start with baby steps, we'll never get the journey started. And it looks like a lot of babies out there are crying in their milk because they dont' understand, like babies don't understand, what is good for them.

    March 21, 2010 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  15. Jon Krieger

    I am totally against Obamacare,but there is no room for this racist bullcrap!All it does is re-inforce the false notion that we Obama dissenters are neanderthal racists!And that is something we don't need!My sincere apologies to Mr Lewis.

    March 21, 2010 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  16. Rocko

    I wonder why fox didn't report this. Hmmmm

    March 21, 2010 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  17. Nic

    lol, what do you know...tea partiers are finally being realized for what they are, mainly extremists with only a few who are sincerely concerned...

    March 21, 2010 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  18. Javell McGee

    One thing is certian, what John Lewis said was a lie. I was present and no one used the N word. I'm black and proud, but please stop using race as a divisive weapon whenever you want to attack others with opposing political views. Lewis has done this before and it's getting old.

    March 21, 2010 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  19. Sadee K

    I'll just be happy to have this over, no matter which way it goes. The idiots who are hurling these horrible remarks, are the real problem in our society. They have no concept of respect. Probably 80% don't even vote.
    Plus, stupidity is not the answer. It has never worked, and it won't work now.

    If I were younger, I'd move to Canada. "Things", are not perfect there, but
    people seem to be much more civil. I'm not really proud to be an American right now!

    D. Kisting/Michigan

    March 21, 2010 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  20. Anonymous

    The Teabaggers have finnally come clean with their whole motive and what really drives them. Today they chanted at Black Congressmen leaving the Capital calling them the N word. If they ever try to say race is not their concern you now have proof.

    March 21, 2010 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  21. annieL

    How did protesters get so close to Congress members? With emotions, fueled by hateful propaganda, running so high among a segment of our population, I demand security for our elected representatives.

    March 21, 2010 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  22. Orville

    I'm appalled at the indecency of some people! How is it that our leaders get attacked, their integrity questioned and their life threatened for doing what they think is for the public good – acting in good conscience as a civil servant (whether you agree with them or not)!...oh I'm so disgusted with this group of reactionary conservatives!...we are in so much of a hurt and in so much more trouble than we really know!

    March 21, 2010 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  23. milesbrown49

    The Teabaggers have finnally come clean with their whole motive and what really drives them. Today they chanted at Black Congressmen leaving the Capital calling them the N word. If they ever try to say race is not their concern you now have proof!!!

    March 21, 2010 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  24. jennifer

    What an embarassment. The lack of civility, decency and education in this country down right frightens me for my young daughter. The "N" word, really??? I hope the world community doesn't judge us all by these ignorant few.

    March 21, 2010 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  25. Jeremiah

    I'm not sure if these protesters think that they're actually going to accomplish anything by yelling racial and homophobic slurs at Democratic Congressmen. It seems to me that a lot of people are just using Healthcare Reform as an excuse to act out all of their hate-based fantasies.

    I'm an Independent voter that supports the Healthcare Reform Bill (no, I'm not happy with it, but it is much better than doing nothing) and I enjoy a healthy and civil debate on this issue with several committed Republicans and conservative Independents. Our conversations are informed, measured, and respectful and, despite the involvement by several people of different races, our conversations are NEVER racist.

    I doubt very much that the idiots yelling racist and homophobic slurs have any real grasp of the issues or the facts and instead they have digressed to using 1960s fear tactics to press their point. They are an embarrassment to this great nation and to our great diversity of ideas. They represent a minority and do not DESERVE the right to freedom of speech...which is why our beautiful Bill of Rights grants it to them as an inherent right, deserving or not.

    America has weathered worse storms and she will come out of this one intact and the stronger for it all.

    March 21, 2010 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
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