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. AJ

    This is what happens when you buy Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, you get division, racism and gay bashing.
    I had to smile at Paul Ryan on FOX all concerned about the debt. Rep Ryan voted for building more roads, bridges, health clinics, swimming pools in Iraq than he did for building the same in America, as did most Republicans. Mr. Ryan, et al, just give the American citizens what you gave the Iraqi citizens and all would be well.

    March 21, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  2. johnrj08

    Pence and his cronies helped create an atmosphere of paranoia, distrust and hatred, then have the nerve to denounce the inevitable results of their own tactics. The hypocrisy is pouring out of this guy's pores.

    March 21, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  3. Tuco Ramirez

    Poor Democrats can't care for themselves and need welfare (of one sort or another) to survive.

    Rich Democrats are Communist minded and want to control all others by taking our liberties and taxing them to care for the poor Democrats.

    March 21, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  4. RealityOne

    This bill creates 1/2 Trillion dollars in new taxes, takes 1/2 Trillion dollars from the medicare program that already is twice as likely to deny claims to the elderly, puts the burden of paying for everyone's health care on the backs of a few, creates 159 new government offices, and hires 16,500 IRS agents to enforce it. The freedom of this nation and its ability to survive economically is at stake – but those who have not put a life-time of hard work and defending this Nation just don't get it. This bill is not about health care – it is about wealth redistribution and a government power grab.

    March 21, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  5. FanofLiberty

    There is only one color that is really of concern here, and that color is green. The one good thing to come out of this travesty is that anyone of middle class, black, white or hispanic will all be taxed the same. If you think you get a pass because you are a successful black, you are wrong. In the end, we all end up losers (except for those who contribute nothing to society, and then get a benefit).

    March 21, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  6. luvinit

    just poll the responses here,,,clearly the people are wanting this (BILL) to pass.. Contrary to what the repugs have been trying to sell us..

    OK repugs, instead of saying NO tell us a good way to address this issue,, won't happen..they don't want any change that may be positive that they can't take credit for...

    March 21, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  7. David M. M.

    A politician says "Americans are scared to death..." Gee, who got them whipped up into this frenzy of fear? Oh, wait, the same politicians. They get people whipped up into a frenzy of fear and then act all maternally or paternally toward those same people. God, we are such tools. There are exaggerations on BOTH sides people. Whether your fear likes it or not (fear can be addicting after awhile).

    March 21, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  8. Dewk

    The biggest lies and inconsistencies are far and away coming from the left. "The insurance companies are evil, the republicans are in-bed with the insurance companies". So what is the democrats solution. Make all people buy insurance from the evil insurance companies! What a goldmine for the insurance companies. Libs, please tell me who is in bed with the insurance companies again?

    Another myth, this bill is for the american people. How is it that insurance company profits will soar (at least in the short term) and meanwhile american families insurance premiums will go up between $1000-$2000 per year (in the beginning, much more later). And also the typical american family will be paying another $2000-$4000 in their share of the medical costs, thanks once again to the democrats inserting special language to line the pockets of the insurance companies. Did any of you libs actually read the bill and figure out who benefits and who pays?

    March 21, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  9. hmmm...

    LOL..rolling on the floor laughing hysterically. How any group can think their group is free of members who exhibit their emotions with total respect and civility is WAYYYYYY beyond me. If there is such a group, I waould say they are waiting to have their organs harvested and do not willingly belong to that group. Thanks for the laugh, the oral shower, the words...being human...after all, that is our crime...being human. At some point one might wish to accept they are but lowly humans...each and every one of us and what a wonderfully invigorated and glorious world because of that. When doing things people do not like, treat them like unruly camels and, give'em space or take the shower.

    March 21, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  10. john

    How sincere is this? The GOP is to blame for this. Last night on the House floor. Republicans referred to them as the "people" in "We the People". The House and Senate minority leaders have done everything the could to do nothing. The people paying for the Republican cospiricy are the American people.

    March 21, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  11. S Pike

    Sorry folks. I'm afraid these are not isolated incidences. If the Republican leadership really thinks they are, then they are really disconnected from "main street." To dismiss the reprehensible actions as those of just a few is way off. I've lived in the south, the east and the northwest, any time a progressive political platform is put forth by a minority politician, the racial and homophobic epitaphs start flying. It's a pattern. Not an isolated occurrence.

    March 21, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  12. Maven

    "Isolated incidents?" Not from my experience. I was a Republican for 30 years, up until George W. Bush. Then I saw the Republican Party turn into something hateful and evil. There are no more "moderate Republicans". We were driven off by Cheney and those like him. Republicans have spent the past decade telling us that if you're not a crazy, racist, greed-fueled bigot, then you're "not really a Republican". I finally took them at their word, and became an Independent. Now days their strategy seems to be "act as Thuggish as possible", in the hopes that if they act crazy enough, they'll scare the rest of us into giving them their way.

    March 21, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  13. Jen

    Actually Slick, a CNN producer was one of many independent confirmations of the anti-gay slur hurled at Congressman Frank.

    Beyond that, why would these people lie? If you think there are not racists among the tea-party crowd, I have several bridges and sme swamp land to sell you.

    March 21, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  14. Bill

    There are racists everyhwhere not just on the Republican side – didn't Obama get over 90% of the black vote? It's wrong but it really isn't a big issue unless you let it become one

    March 21, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  15. Stormee

    The racial slurs are bad enough, but did you see how the Tea Partiers treated a person with Parkinson's Disease in Ohio? And these people call themselves Christians? I have to ask their question now – What would Jesus do?

    March 21, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  16. Brian

    So just in case there was any doubt that the Tea Party movement is just another manifestation of the Republican party doing their bidding, these racist and homophobic incidents have the GOP written all over them: incite and deny. Republican hypocrisy at its finest.

    March 21, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  17. Tammy

    C'mon, everyone, it's completely impossible for everyone in any given group to be a demon, which is how the vast majority of posts here portray Repubs. I'm a Dem. for healthcare, but I know there are plenty of honorable Repubs who honestly oppose the bill. We're getting as carried away as we characterize them of being. Let's not be that pot calling the kettle black!

    Believe me, I'm not defending their lock-step against the bill. They'll have to live with that down the line! But let's be reasonable, not vitriolic, while we discuss the subject.

    March 21, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  18. Ingrid

    There was plenty of video footage showing tea-party thugs denigrating an elderly man with Parkinson's disease. One thug yelling at him "no handouts" while another steps up and start flinging dollars at him. Some of my fellow countrymen make me sick.

    March 21, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  19. JD

    It seems that Republicans are always playing shady. The herding of groups of people without capacity to question or envision hidden motives, for lack of education or information or both. Haters, people very easily stirred up, and trained to attack personalities instead of ideas. The old scare tactics, used by the dark politicians in the past.
    It is a good thing that these tactics are being spotted by the public, and the media. Time to say : NOT OK to play with our minds. Not Ok to knowingly present incomplete facts, lies, or facts out of contexts, to support your own interests, rather than the People you are bound to serve.

    March 21, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  20. Catherine Carter

    Hate and ugliness and treason against our government, along with a lot of ignorance, are being whipped up into a dangerous frenzy by Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and their ilk. They bear DIRECT RESPONSIBILITY for the actions of these hateful people. Glenn Beck is as reprehensible as Joseph Goebbels and it is horrible watching how some Americans are falling into such ugliness by this propaganda. Extremists such as Beck and Limbaugh will stop at nothing; their lies are outrageous and dangerous to our country, but these power-grabbing and fear-mongering bullies will stop at nothing. They are doing all they can to stir people up in hate and fear, and I am afraid that some act of domestic terrorism will happen here. I don't understand how Beck and Limbaugh can get away with their treasonous activities...we hold other people accountable for terrorist activities...why not Fox News?

    March 21, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  21. luvinit

    also have to say to the Tea Baggers (great name by the way,, oh the lols)

    as said by previous bloggers here

    where were you during the gw years (small caps for gw on purpose)

    seems like all the racist nut jobs crawled from their holes after Obama came aboard....hmm coincidence ..think not...

    before 08 TEABAGGER had a different meaning,,,well it still has the same meaning just different context...

    March 21, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  22. Jim Marler

    Bohener, Canter, McConnel along with other key Republicans are enjoy all this hate mongering. They are not suiteable to be a used car salesman.

    March 21, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  23. Molehill

    Bigoted white folk will soon be the only ones standing in line at the unemployment/welfare office (to suck up tax money that they don't think should even exist) and dying of curable diseases in this country. This latest profoundly magnified version of standard white trash- speak is crescendo-ing now so that everyone clearly understands why god sees fit to punish them for the next three generations. Is there a commandment right wingers don't break on a daily basis? No. All the hatred and anger is because they are subconciously aware of their intellectual, philosophical and job-marketable inferiority.

    March 21, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  24. Dan

    Where were the Democrats when Obama was supporting Wright and was a member of his racist church in Chicago? Obama only ended his membership to the church and spoke against Wright after it appeared that he could lose his lead in the primaries.
    These few people shouting racists comments aren't part of the mainstream Republican or Tea Party movement, but the Democrats support having a racist like Wright in their party.
    Both of the parties should denounce all racists and any actions by them. The struggles in this country now are more based on wealth (assets not income) than race.

    March 21, 2010 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  25. SAD

    I have seen many times where the liberal democrats have Yelled down and maligned conservaties. Also if this health bill is soooo wonderful how come the legislators have exempted themselves from it. Only the poor masses MUST subscribe. Our system of government is circling the toilet

    March 21, 2010 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
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