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. Dave Phillips

    The Tea Party protesters are just saying what Republicans can't get away with. Republicans use these people to intimidate Democrats and spread fear because should they do these things on their own, even Fox Terror Channel couldn't provide political cover for doing so.

    March 21, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  2. leonardofru

    Lets see – slurs from the right vs. violence from Obamists. I go with slurs any day. Violence is not the way to solve this problem and the people should demand that Obama stop the violence and threats of violence from his peopel.

    March 21, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  3. Frank

    It's time for America to start growing again and addressing our future. Man, it's been a while.

    March 21, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  4. Yenta

    These same lovely people who hate non White Americans are the same lovely people with whom the Republicans have gtotten in bed.

    Let's send them all a message in November–which is to go back in their caaves.

    In less than a month, the coffee party movement on facebook will have double the "fans" that Tea Party "patriosts" have. The Tea Party movement is a throwback to the White Citizens Councils of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's–not to mention the conspiracy obsessed John Birch Society. They have all gone off the diving board at the deep end of the pool–and there is no water in the pool.

    Anyone shouting down health insurance for Americans who gets Medicare and/or Social Security, should be forced to give up those benefits. They need to practice what they preach.and then move to a deserted island where they will not have to pay taxes for those less fortunate than themselves.

    March 21, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  5. MsDp

    If the GOP is not responsible for the actions of this teaparty group, I want to see them stand before this teaparty group in an open televised session to the American people and tell them to stop with the ignorance and fear tactics! I also want a complete, not a partial, televised session of the close door session that was held by the GOP on yesterday; especially since transparency is their main concern when it relates to the DEMs. I wonder what the rest of their meeting was about? Maybe their discussion surrounded teaparty events?

    March 21, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  6. Newsie34

    Thank you Republicans for making the Democrats grow a pair and fight for something! And, everyone now sees just how pathetic the republican base actually is! This is great... the republicans have actually empowered the democrats by these scare tactics!!! Thank you! Thank you!

    March 21, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  7. Brad

    The right wing of the GOP cultivates this kind of thing every day. You won't see any denunciations of this kind of behavior by Beck, Limbaugh, Coulter, Hannity and the rest of the inciter/apologists.

    If you ever read the comments on their web sites, you would see worse...and they leave them up for all to see.

    March 21, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  8. I'm confused

    All of this is BS and takes away from the real issues this country faces. The hatred coming from BOTH sides of the aisle is pathetic. The sheep that blindly follow are just as bad.

    If you think what Nancy Pelosi is doing to this country is right, then by all means support her. If you don't, then speak out. This isn't about race or hatred ... get the politics behind you. This is about the future of this country and the politicians, particularly those in charge cutting deals to twist and turn the truth, are ruining this great country. And the blind followers of both parties are just as much to blame. Quit thinking Dems vs Reps and start thinking US ... as in WE the People.

    March 21, 2010 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  9. A True Conservative

    The racist comments from both sides need to stop! I am tired of reading that anyone who opposes Obama is a racist. I am tired of people on any side who simply are racists. Judge people for who and what they are, not the color of their skin or their political leanings.

    March 21, 2010 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  10. Norma

    The ONLY reason the Repugs don't want health care to pass is because most of them are in the back pocket of the giant insurance companies. The health care bill passess – the repugs lose their kickbacks. Why did the Repugs not focus on health care during their 8 years in the Whitehouse? Because they could care less about the "American People" as they profess. Well I AM THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, I do have health coverage and I do want those that don't have healthcare to have it as well. So don't speak for me Repugs!
    If you care so much about the AMERICAN PEOPLE, ask Cheney & Bush to give back the millions they received with the Iraq war that they got us into. The repugs stand for greed and selfishness, yes at the sake of the American People!

    March 21, 2010 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  11. perry chamberlain

    the true face of the ignorant republican party, uneducated, unimformed, racist, thugs.
    thanks for helping pass the health care bill you morons.

    March 21, 2010 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  12. Darrell Burks

    Tea Party = Republicans = Racisit=sad sort of people

    March 21, 2010 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  13. Debby

    So where is the visible coverage from any news organization on this incident. There were tons of camera crews there, you mean NO ONE caught this on tape come on.

    March 21, 2010 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  14. sb

    racists republicans

    March 21, 2010 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  15. Slick

    I've seen video of these guys going to Capital Hill. In all 4 videos, there was not one racial slur. Everyone interviewed, including reporters that were there, didn't hear any racial slurs. Now all of the sudden, there was also gay slurs and calls for harm against leaders of government.
    This is the same sort of fear mongering and hate mongering the republicans used back in the Bush administration. The difference, the democrats are using it for their advantage. In this day of camera phones/video phones, I would like to see just one video of these supposed slurs.

    March 21, 2010 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  16. El Kababa

    American Conservative voters are a conglomerate of different groups. There are:
    1. Wealthy Americans who are opposed to all taxes and opposed to any law that constrains their private and public activities.
    2. Libertarian nut-cases who preach their strange economic religion.
    3. Fundamentalists, who imagine that the government will one day recognize them as the true religion of America.
    4. Racists, who would re-segregate America, especially the south.
    5. Suckers who are easily fooled by con-men in $2,000 suits and poofy hair.

    Conservative operatives are circulating among each group, stirring them up and connecting this health bill to their pet philosophy. They are telling each group that this bill will destroy free enterprise, betray Christian principles, reward those with swarthy complexion at the expense of the pale, and ignore the rabble – er, the salt of the earth.

    Conservative leaders solomnly denounce the emotions stirred up by their confederates but they do nothing to stop them.

    March 21, 2010 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  17. Johnny DC

    The smart money is on the fact that these slurs were cast by Democrats and Liberal lobbyists pretending to be part of the energized crowd.

    You are all suckers for not seeing how clearly obvious this is.

    March 21, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  18. karma

    Why is it that when negative things are said about the current administration the Democrats always blame the republicans. Last time I checked there were just as many Democrats that hate this bill as there are Republicans. Yes these statements if true are uncalled for but be careful who you place the blame on because I am sure it could be individuals from both sides.

    March 21, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  19. Patrick Freese

    Just when the Republicans and the tea partiers want to be taken seriously, it is overshadowed by their racist and tasteless slurs of anger and mindless fear. It is become pretty clear to me that the Republicans and tea pariters don't think about long term consequences about their words or their actions, and they'll pay for their word when this bill passes this afternoon.

    March 21, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  20. brian hood

    Now everyone will see how important their vote is,,, and the damage it can do to your children's future with this new health care legislation.

    I dont see how anyone could support more government given their failing track record in the private sector.

    March 21, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  21. plainfact

    Democrats are real Heros.
    Republicans are so incapacitated like never.

    "GOOD POLICY MAKES FOR GOOD POLITICS" the president said.

    March 21, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  22. Robin in Tampa, FL

    I'm not surprised that the Tea Party folks have now resorted to spitting and hurling racial slurs at members of congress. These people have been holding up signs portraying President Obama as Hitler, a witch doctor, the joker, and much worse. No politician should ever stand with these folks, they are bigots who represent a very backward mentality which should be condemned in the harshest way.

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

    Republician party are hippocrates! They only cater to the rich when in office(party of do nothing). Use thugs to circumvent a good course for the middle class and the poor. The tactics they're using this time is lies, racial and guy slurs. GOP, will be voted out of office in November.

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

    It was all about race since the beginning for the Republicans, let get over it. They are OK with subsidizing th erich with tax cuts, but they are not OK with subsidizing health care for the poor, that ultimately, are african american and latinos.

    March 21, 2010 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  25. Dessi4u

    Protest makes sense when it is based on facts and a genuine feeling of being wronged, but listening to people when they are NUTS, racist, misinformed and paniced like deers in the headlights, well, they should be locked up and treated instead of being praisied as representatives of the people. Does this group not need health care. Maybe they are rich nuts who have great cobverage. Either way, we all pay in health and $$$. Some areas of the country are still resentful of having a Black president. That's on them... move on...... pleeeeeze.

    March 21, 2010 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12