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. Deborah Adatto Ishida

    My husband and I enjoy listening to a civil discussion regarding the health care bill from both Republicans and Democrats. We have researched the subject and are for the bill. What we don't appreciate is the fact that Senator Pense keeps on referring to what the 'American People' want when it comes to the Republican arguement. My husband and I are both proudly American,. We do not appreciate being put in a category of what we want according to the senator. Between the both of us, we have worked over 66 years and are fortunate to be doubly covered insurance wise. We are not worried about our rates going up, but we are worried about many others who do not have the opportunities my husband and I have had.

    Please, Senator Pense, don't lump all of us Americans in one category.

    March 21, 2010 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  2. Andrew

    You mean the GOP party (scared, white, under-educated people who put money ahead of people) used anti-gay words and racial slurs. Who would have thought!?

    March 21, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  3. Tracy

    It's good the Tea Party supporters are finally showing their true faces. It's been quite clear from day one that they're mostly racist and bigots whom have hidden behind the term "Conservative" to hide their true motives, which is to ruin anything a non-white President attempts to do.

    March 21, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  4. Preston kathy

    I tgnk it would be nice if the gop told there people to stop calling people names same for dems

    March 21, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  5. J-Rock

    Amen to flybythesea's comment.

    March 21, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  6. Sly

    Gotta love how the Repubs are "sorry" for their minions doing like they've always wanted to do themselves. The people who screamed the slurs, spat at members of congress, those are the people America should fear. They're the ones who, if they have the chance, will lead this country to a terrible end. They'll do so through ignorance, intolerace, and a misplaced belief that strength and forced faith will conquer all.

    March 21, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  7. Michael

    Just too funny, Republicans condemn the ugly behavior on the one hand, and yet do everything they can to condone and encourage it on the other with all of the death panels, socialism, government takeover nonsense. You see all the GOP House members going out to rile the crowd up, throwing red meat to the crowd and then they act surprised when things get out of hand. Shame on them!

    It's the same thing with the Birthers...House GOP members say "We don't think the president was not born in the USA, but think the question should be asked', which is an implicit endorsement of the lunatic fringe. They don't disavow it, they encourage it. The GOP is really playing with fire with some of the rhetoric being thrown around, it may play well in a deep red district in GA, but it disgusts independent voters like me.

    March 21, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  8. Scott

    Chuck B
    – Absolutely correct!

    March 21, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  9. Independant in Missouri

    I hope you all have actually read the bill. There's a lot of comments about people being happy with the benefits the act bestows, and that repub leaders haven't read it. I read it, and frankly was appalled at the number of handouts in the bill (Obama promised to go line by line to avoid pork spending). I do like some parts of the bill, but to all those ultra-partisans on both sides, don't make specific critiques of the opposition without reading it, or else, you are the hypocritical uneducated partisans you are you all seem to be critical of.

    March 21, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  10. James Christian

    I am sure the Healthcare Reform Bill isn't a panacea and will need on-going repairs. However, the Republican stance on it is wobbly because: 1) The words "healthcare" and "reform," which they now all say is needed, were never uttered in the same sentence when they had the power from 2000-2008, yet the system was deteriorating fast. 2) "We can't afford it" - they did not have a problem not paying for a $ trillion + expense (not to mention lives) in Iraq, a tragically erroneous war (not to confuse with Afghanistan). I hope the Republican Party can participate more constructively going forward, including addressing the entitlement liabilities which really threaten our financial health. Thank you.

    March 21, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  11. Sue

    Post this CNN.........However, I imagine that you will censor it.

    You are sickening CNN.

    You did not do one article about the 30,000 people who showed up to protest against the Bill yesterday.

    However, you went out of your way to look for one negative thing that "SOME" of these protestors did, and you pounced on it. There were 30,000 people there protesting--and the racial slur situation was done by 1-2 people.

    During the time when the brain dead, loony left liberals were saying things about Palin-–such as that her baby was really her daughter's, that it is because of her age that her baby was born handicapped, all of the insults against her daughter, making fun of her baby, etc.---you did not do one article/report about any of it.

    You are no longer a news station CNN. And, I hope that you follow the same path as MSNBC--which is to go down, because nobody watches you anymore.

    March 21, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  12. Perry

    It is hard for Republicans to denounce something they created.

    We have heard so many lies during the run up to this vote. It is just like the Iraqi Sunni Leaders whipped their followers up into a frenzy with lies that led to open civil war. It was like the Hutu Leaders whipped their followers up into a frenzy with lies that led to the genocide in Rwanda. And of course, the perpetrators of American lies would look down on these people. But the only difference between these leaders and the Republican and Conservative Leadership is that the Republicans and Conservatives are more effective in reaching more people.

    But it won't work. Not anymore.

    Notice that only the black and gay congressmen were attacked? That is 4 votes. But the majority of white congressmen passed without incident.

    Having a black President is the emotional root of these protests. It is hard to blame the protesters when older whites were told horrible things about black people by people they trusted. And now they are being told horrible things about this black President's plans by other people they trust.

    As usual, the poor and middle class are are told they are going to lose "their" freedom.. But really they have been duped into protecting the practices of the insurance companies.

    And the beat goes on.

    March 21, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  13. payforward

    Obama has created a monster – a divided America, and he is smiling.

    There is a reason this TYPE of health care reform has FAILED for over 40 years.

    March 21, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  14. leonardofru

    I would much rather have a racial slur slung at me than to be beaten senseless by a Democrat "anti'war" protestor or an SEIU Obamist.

    Come on CNN, lets have some stories about violence being perpetrated by Obamists.

    March 21, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  15. Fed up in the USA

    What do the democrats expect? They are acting like idiots and spending this country into oblivion. People are fed up with their so-called "government" and are venting in frustration. America is fundamentally about personal freedom of expression, trying to curb how people say things with "political correctness" reminds them of the freedom's we have lost because of overreaching government. I don't care that Barney Frank is gay, he's a complete ideologue who knows nothing except to grab money for his chosen "special interest group". His opinions are of no interest to me, he's as bad as those throwing racial epithets, his are just cloaked in "political correctness"

    March 21, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  16. Michael Newman

    We now have a three party system in the USA... Democrats, Republicans and Anarchists. The Tea Party bigots are now calling for violence in the streets!.... maybe it will spread to their country clubs ?

    March 21, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  17. fscott58

    True colors (or should I say color [white] ) of the GOP.

    March 21, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  18. todd

    wow. amazing how quickly the hate-driven lemmings on the left read a headline and believe it to be fact. until I see proof this happened, I am smart enough to be skeptical. plus, it is very likely, knowing the mobster-like chicago politics way, that if it happened these people were planted in the crowd by the democrats, for the sole purpose of causing an uproar just before the vote. and yes, the mindless morons in the media, and the mind-numbed robot readers hearing exactly what they want to hear, are buying it. god help this country.

    March 21, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  19. leonardofru

    Show us tapes CNN or take this frickin story down.

    March 21, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  20. sonoio_m

    wish the hypocratic GOP had put such a fight when billions were wasted on unnessary war in iraq. Now they clain they are being fiscally responsible. I do not buy it. I buy that they just hate to see poor people have health care....... so does bad corporations

    March 21, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  21. Tom

    interesting when you can shut down all political debate by claiming some anonymous racism or anti-gay sentiments. Seems like the Democrats will stop at nothing to stifle debate and criticism of their attempts at bringing socialist change to America. Good luck with that the American People will not be silenced on this matter. Hey like Obama said thats what elections are for. LOL talk to me again when Republicans are in full charge bringing Impeachment proceedings against Obama in 2011 thats what Elections are for.

    March 21, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |

    Boner, Cantor, and the repub leadership are a bunch of hypocrites. They are openly inciting the lunatic fringe by bald face lying and then pretending to shed crocodiles tear, that too is also poor acting.

    March 21, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  23. Paul L

    In my opinion, it is not the healthcare issue that is causing all the hatered, it is talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Lavin that is turning people in to such haters. Complaining so much, because their party is not in power, they are acting like little kids, who are mad at their parents and acting like brats about it. People that that have done more to divide the country than bringing people together. They are the worst kind of people that are so selfish that they are destroying the nation. Instead of bashing, try being more focused on how problems can be resolved for the better of the nation...and not just what is best for the party. I truly believe that Obama has been trying to do what is best for all of the country, but every time that he has stuck his hand out to the Republican party, they would bite it instead of trying to come to common ground.

    March 21, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  24. lola

    With all the reporters and every phone recorder, no one caught this???

    March 21, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  25. Ara Ourishian

    I think the People who said racial comments were Democrats acting as a Republicans to instigate, because the press love to write against the Republicans. Im suprised at the press when Democrats called Bush a Nazi, they don't report that.

    March 21, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
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