Washington (CNN) - House Republican leaders criticized the use of slurs against Democratic congressmen by protesters on Capitol Hill Saturday, but they called them isolated incidents that shouldn't overshadow the debate over health care.
Three Democratic African-American lawmakers - including civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis of Georgia - said demonstrators against the health care bill yelled racist epithets at them as they walked past. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri said a protester spit at him. Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, an openly gay Democrat, said protesters yelled anti-gay comments at him.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the incidents "reprehensible" but said on NBC's Meet the Press "let's not let a few isolated incidents get in the way of the fact that millions of Americans are scared to
death, and millions of Americans want no part of this growing size of government."
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, appearing on NBC, said, "I think the tone of the this entire debate has been denigrated, has been brought down, frankly, by the rhetoric on government takeover, socialism, things that are not accurate."
"Nobody condones that at all," said House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R- Virginia. on ABC's "This Week." "There were 30,000 people here in Washington yesterday. And, yes, there were some very awful things said."
Cantor appeared with House Democratic Caucus chairman John Larson, D-Connecticut, who said the incidents show "everybody ought to ratchet back just a little bit."
Asked about Larson's comment, Cantor said "you know what it is time for? It's time to listen to the American people, and that is the stunning thing about this."
On CNN's "State of the Union," Rep. Mike Pence, R-Indiana, called the slurs "contemptible," saying, "I denounce it in the strongest terms."
Andrew Langer, the president of one of the groups that sponsored Saturday's protest, issued a statement Sunday condemning the incidents. "The Institute for Liberty roundly condemns the isolated incidents of intolerance that occurred … As a core value, the Tea Party movement believes in the precept upon which our independence was declared and this nation was founded: that all men are created equal."
As demonstrators gathered outside the Capitol Sunday to rally against the bill, one held a sign saying, "All tea partiers: If you hear a racial slur, step away, point, boo and take a picture of the rat bastard."
"I haven't seen or heard anything like this in more than 40 years, maybe 45," the 70-year-old Lewis said. "Since the march from Selma to Montgomery really."
"Yeah, but it's OK," Lewis said. "I've faced this before. So, it reminded me of the '60s. There's a lot of downright hate and anger. and people are just being downright mean."
Cleaver released a statement late Saturday saying he, too, was the target of the "n" word as he walked to the Capitol for a vote and that he was spat on by one protester who was arrested by U.S. Capitol Police. Cleaver declined to press charges against the man, the statement said.
"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. ... People out here today on the whole were, many of them, were hateful and abusive."
Updated: 3:15 p.m.
–CNN Radio's Lisa Desjardins contributed to this report.
Oh sure they are denouncing the slurs after they incited their lunatic crowd to chant them!
Republicans have shown us their lack of character, integrity, and human decency all year. They have whipped up the ignorant into fearful frenzies, told so many lies they can't keep them straight anymore, and did not do ONE single thing to reach out and help the working families of our nation.
All they have done is sit on the sideline whining, lying, spreading fear, promoting racism and violence and never once denounce what they had created in these dangerous tea baggers and other hate groups.
Republicans will reap what they have sown this year. We voters who had to endure their nastiness, obstructionism, and NO votes will defintely be getting out in November to use our NO VOTES to rid Congress of every arrogant elitist Republican who betrayed the People of our country when we needed help the most.
We WILL have healthcare and it will be the Republicans WATERLOO for standing with abusive insurance companies and against the People who are dying so insurance companies can make an extra nickel.
You LOST AGAIN Republicans! You DO NOT KNOW what Americans want or need and you never bothered to find out. You are clueless, leaderless, whiners who will soon have your political careers over!
yeah right. we all know better. I live in the south. and for the most part things have improved. but believe me there's plenty more where that came from. ignorance is still clinging to it's very rocks.
Gee Rep Boehner... Do you think the unprecedented amounts of misinformation coming from dishonest politicians, divisive pundits and faux cable news channels could have anything to do with the fear and anger being displayed by those on the right??
You yourself have said the health bill signals 'armageddon'. Pathetic.
They let them into the capitol grounds to protest. Why didn't they give them any guidelines before giving them capitol passes?
Simply the chickens coming home to roost for the Republicans. Meet the true nature of the tea partiers and the people the Republicans have been pandering to for years.
Cantor and the rest the Repuke and Tea Party type idiots are winding themselves into a psychotic fantasy about listening to the "American people" and thinking they know what regular folks (like me) want. Once the health care bill becomes law most people will be happy with the benefits they get and will see the plan as positive. Plus, this bill is passing exactly the same way the Bush tax cut give away to the rich passed a few years back and none of these whiners were screaming then. The behavior of these so-called protesters only lends truth to the fact that many of them are just racist ignorant morons.
America is founded as socialist country.
Read first sentence of signed declaration.
We the people for the people.............
Republicans gleefully watched their uneducated flock call Obama a muslim terrorist during the campaign. Why expect a sincere, heartfelt reprimand here? These bigotted, mean-spirited people are the base of the party.
Typical Republican politics! They incite the mob and then denounce the mobs reactions.
Let me put it this way they want sara palin for president sara loves george bush and cheney two big crooks who made a lot of money off the war i believe the the gop would tell there people to make racial remarks you have russ limmouth read my lips rupubls
To the Uncommitted Democrats:
If you vote "Yes" the RebirtherTeaParty members will hurl epithets at you.
If you vote "No" the RebirtherTeaParty members will hurl epithets at you.
See the difference?
Typical liberal – when they think thay are losing an argument – play the race card – so typical of the libs.
There is nothing new about some Republicans being racist and using racial slurs. Some are proud to be racists. The party is proud to have no agenda but stopping anything good for middle class. Too bad they didn't have all this piss and vinegar when they could have done some good against the last President.
The GOP critics of slurs and negative bias of others they have inspired have only themselves to blame, especially for creating such a divisive, puerile, and pathological climate. While many on all sides have contributed, the collective voice of this group is quite stupid and insidious.
Too bad, the Teabaggers are showing their true colors.
I want to know what these IDIOTS were doing when the appointed Pres. Bush and the formly controlled House (remember the giant tax give-away to the Oil companies, the Pharmiiecals, and the rich??) gave away this country's surplus.
How about the LIES that they told to INVADE Iraq? What about the take-over of the World Bank by Wolfewitz? The Repugs are all scum.
Pubs... congratulations; with the language of hate and fear from Pub leaders, t-partiers, birthers, Painlin, McSame ("that one"), Beck, Rush and Fx in general... what the he## did you expect. This is EXACTLY what you have generated. Your political rants have set this country back 50 years.
Why would we be surprised. The rhetoric set forth by the party of "No" promotes this type of hatred. Secretly, republicans are thrilled by this boorish behavior. Let's move past this and pass the initiative and stop the insurance company gravy train.
If this bill passes and we add millions more people to the medicaid ranks, just which doctors will they be seeing? Due to a loss of job and health care recently, I looked into having my daughter on medicaid while I found new work. In my area no good doctor is willing to accept this program and certainly not my family physician. I could take her to a clinic which I might add I would not take my guinea pig to, so I choose to pay out of pocket. Who are these doctors that will be taking on all these new patients? They certainly are not in my neck of the woods. Chew on that bit of information.
I demand they get prosecuted... It is wrong from either side and people who use this as proof an entire group is full of hatred and are racist, makes me think it was a plant. If you don't get your way; find a way to demonize the other side?… we demand they get arrested and prosecuted, no matter what side of an issue they are on.
this is what happens when you have paid liars on tv like beck, palin, limbaugh and fox news inciting near riots with their lies. they preach to a pack of idiots who they use to play out to their sponsors. it is disgusting anf they and their doinosaur leaders wshould be arrested.
Typical Republicans, they has gotten worst and more bold since a African American moved into the White House. The only thing missing from Republicans today is their sheets.
.. and don't dissed this as "isolated." Where I live, they are NOT "isolated" and you know it!
SHAME ON YOU!
The fear-mongering Repubs thrive on the hate going around; its their oxygen.
The more I hear from Cantor, the less I take him seriously! He has spent months denouncing everything the President and the Democrats are working on and continues to bring up the same old blah, blah talking points that they tried to use BEFORE the election.
Vote the GOP into oblivion in November. When they have absolutely no voice, then who will they be scaring?
If the GOP wants smaller government, then most of us will just have to go. Every one of us IS the government. When are we gonna get that?