March 21st, 2010
05:02 PM ET
13 years ago

House Republicans denounce racial slurs hurled at Democrats

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="On CNN's State of the Union, Rep. Mike Pence, R-Indiana, called the slur directed at Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, 'contemptible.' 'I denounce it in the strongest terms,' Pence said."]
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.

Filed under: GOP • House • John Lewis • Popular Posts
soundoff (300 Responses)
  1. Welcome to Rome

    Really?Guess everyone missed the HBO special"The Right:Feeling Wronged Movie".hahaha

    March 21, 2010 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  2. Badger

    What is next? Maybe burning crosses on the White House lawn.

    March 21, 2010 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  3. johnrj08

    Oh, please. They create an atmosphere of paranoia and hatred, then denounce the inevitable behavior which foments it.

    March 21, 2010 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  4. annie s

    That's big of them. But it also just proves who the Republican party faithul are.

    March 21, 2010 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  5. Willy Brown

    Military retirees will be getting screwed democrat style on the senate bill

    March 21, 2010 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  6. annie against biased news

    Let's see the video clip on this! Lewis brings up racism every time he gets in front of a camera. Show us the video!

    March 21, 2010 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  7. LoveThyNeighbor

    These are the same people who cried like lynch mobs during Obamas run for President. How UNcivil have they become. It's a shame so many people have hate in their hearts now-a-days and it is spilling out into the mainstream. Why are some people so selfish and cannot believe that others can do no wrong? I am thankful for being surrounded by individuals that can AT LEAST carry on a decent, ADULT, normal conversation and still let each other know their right to where each one stands. These people are oh, childish. They do not even comprehend the bad they portray. Just like Jesus stated..."Forgive them Father, they know not what they do..." Sam

    March 21, 2010 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  8. njt25

    People wouldn't default to derogatory remarks, if politicans listned to their consituents. People have had enough with crazy Nancy Pelosi and Senator Reid. Thank god Senator Reid will be gone in the fall. It is a shame that the wealthy liberal people of the Bay Area still support the worst speaker of the house in all of history.

    March 21, 2010 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  9. Audrey in Georgia

    I wonder what the real terrorists are doing right about now?

    March 21, 2010 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  10. Greg Schneider

    It is not enough for the GOP leadership to denounce the reprehensible conduct by the protesters. The GOP needs to acknowledge their responsibility for inciting this mob violence. The year long GOP campaign of mendacity and hyperbolic fear mongering is what has led to yesterday's racist outbursts and acts of violence directed at sitting members of the House of Representatives. The GOP created this idiot rabble and they need to be held accountable for their actions.

    Hosea said it best:
    “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.”

    March 21, 2010 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  11. John

    Denounce these awful slurs all you want. There's still no ducking the fact that these people line up strongly with the ideology of the Republican Party and espouse the same negative talking points and hateful rhetoric that your party leaders offer every single day. You can't subtly imply all of these horrible insults and slurs, then dissociate from them when your stupid and ignorant constituents express them blatantly.

    March 21, 2010 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  12. Clay

    Sure, they renounce it, but that doesn't mean they don't share the same sentiments. Many republican/conservative/fundamentalists rival the Klan with their obstructionist venon and animosity.

    March 21, 2010 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  13. AA

    "Scared to death, and the growing size of the gov't."

    Hmm wonder why that is, where do you think they got that idea?

    99.8% of those people who he is talking about cannot name the three branches of gov't.

    Growing size of gov't is not a thing, it is a reality. And if that is the cost of protecting and saving human life then so be it.

    What a fool.

    March 21, 2010 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  14. George

    Republicans want these people to vote for them, they'd just rather these these kinds of feelings remain in the home. Not that they'd rather these kinds of feeling didn't exits.

    March 21, 2010 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  15. Andy

    Is the real spelling of GOP KKK?

    March 21, 2010 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  16. joe

    Voters let's impeach pence, stupak, especially boehner he is dangerous, impeach mcconnell bachman and the rest of them.

    They are such an embarrassement to this country and the world. They are disgusting, spew hate, they hate black people, they deserve to lose their jobs and health insurance to see how it feels they think they are so high and mighty. It is so repulsive to listent to them that I actually think I will vomit. The same thing happens with hannity beck palin Why can't they be fired for spreading lies and spewing hate. This is so disgusting

    March 21, 2010 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  17. Peggy

    The problem is IS That They Are Not Isolated. The GOP would love for you to believe that but just go to a Tea Party Meeting and see for yourself!

    March 21, 2010 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  18. Another Reformed Republican

    Republican leaders denounce the actions of the Tea Party crowd while supporting the Tea Party movement and secretly financing it through Dick Armey and other bigots. What a bunch of bastards!

    March 21, 2010 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  19. Liberal wingnut

    Oh like the GOP or Tea Party encouraged that. Our liberal media has reached an all time low

    March 21, 2010 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  20. save my state.

    My wife ,and I are members of the tea party movement in st.louis. My wife is afro armerican ,and we have always been treated with respect at every meeting. Yet I see their is always a idot in the crowd.

    Yet never the less. The Dems have to be aware even is health care passing there are more battles to fight over. So send a message to Dems.
    DONT TREAT ON ME...................................DONT TREAT ON ME.

    March 21, 2010 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  21. Debra from Georgia

    Well let us think about this, it is the tea party that spooling this racial slurs, and the tea party is mostly republicants so why not denounce the tea party. hmmmmm

    March 21, 2010 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  22. ariveria

    what hypocrites the republican/conservatives are. they fire this fringe crowds with lies i.e death panels, socialism, fake memos, etc. they refuse to have an honest debate.

    then they wonder where this racial stuff comes from. look in the mirror.

    america deserves better then your anti american hateful lies and rhetoric.

    "a lie repeated often enough becomes the truth"
    glenn beck
    information czar fox news
    the view 5/20/09

    "when the truth is found to be lies"
    jefferson airplane

    March 21, 2010 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  23. Tom

    This is the Republican tactic – appeal to racism, fear, greed – then claim they had nothing to do with it.

    March 21, 2010 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  24. CommonSense09

    Isolated incident my @ss! This is TYPICAL of GOP supporters. Hatred for anything NOT rich, old, and WHITE. Disgusting.

    March 21, 2010 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  25. Jake

    It would be less alarming if it was just some isolated incidents. Unfortunately, the "tea party" and other grass roots groups long ago decided that shouting at others instead of sitting down at the table to negotiate a compromise was the best course of action.

    Too bad your voice was not heard at the table. You've had your chance. You wasted it. Democracy is *not* a bunch of like minded people agreeing. It consists of those with many different views coming together to discuss their differences and agreeing to compromise.

    March 21, 2010 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
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