Tea Party Racists
Some large number of Tea Party protesters assembled in the nation’s capital yesterday to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. It appears that some smaller number of them acted abhorrently.
HuffPo’s Sam Stein:
A staffer for Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told reporters that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) had been spat on by a protestor. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a hero of the civil rights movement, was called a ‘ni–er.’ And Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was called a “faggot,” as protestors shouted at him with deliberately lisp-y screams. Frank, approached in the halls after the president’s speech, shrugged off the incident.
But Clyburn was downright incredulous, saying he had not witnessed such treatment since he was leading civil rights protests in South Carolina in the 1960s.
“It was absolutely shocking to me,” Clyburn said, in response to a question from the Huffington Post. “Last Monday, this past Monday, I stayed home to meet on the campus of Claflin University where fifty years ago as of last Monday… I led the first demonstrations in South Carolina, the sit ins… And quite frankly I heard some things today I have not heard since that day. I heard people saying things that I have not heard since March 15, 1960 when I was marching to try and get off the back of the bus.”
Civil rights icon and veteran Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, said anti-health care bill protesters Saturday repeatedly yelled the “N” word at him as he left a heath care meeting and walked to the Capitol. “I haven’t seen heard anything like this in more than 40 years, maybe 45.” Lewis said. “Since the march from Selma to Montgomery really.”
A CNN producer overheard the word “faggot” yelled at Frank several times in the lobby of the Longworth building. Frank said he heard someone yell “homo” at him.
TPM’s Brian Beutler:
Tea partiers and other anti-health care activists are known to get rowdy, but today’s protest on Capitol Hill–the day before the House is set to vote on historic health care legislation–went beyond the usual chanting and controversial signs, and veered into ugly bigotry and intimidation.
Civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and fellow Congressional Black Caucus member Andre Carson (D-IN) related a particularly jarring encounter with a large crowd of protesters screaming “kill the bill”… and punctuating their chants with the word “nigger.”
After the caucus meeting, TPMDC’s Evan McMorris-Santoro caught up with Frank, who reflected on the incident. “I’m disappointed at a unwillingness to be just civil,” Frank said. “[T]he objection to the health care bill has become a proxy for other sentiments.” “Obviously there are perfectly reasonable people that are against this, but the people out there today on the whole–many of them were hateful and abusive,” Frank added.
“If this was my cause, and I saw this angry group yelling and shouting and being so abusive to people, I would ask them to please stop it,” Frank concluded. “I think they do more harm than good.”
The nature of attracting tens of thousands of people from around the country to protest is such that you are bound to attract a disproportionate share of yahoos, reprobates, and slimeballs. Whether the Tea Party movement has more of these than your average anti-war rally or World Trade Organization protest, I don’t know.
But Barney Frank is right on all scores here.
Not only is uncivil conduct “disappointing,” it’s ultimately destructive. (Indeed, while I share common cause on some issues, I’ve been dismissive of the Tea Party movement precisely because of their unfocused anger and rude behavior.) If the Civil Rights protests of the 1960s taught us anything, it was that the quiet dignity of citizens gathered to respectfully demand justice is enormously powerful — especially when it’s juxtaposed against thuggish behavior from the other side.
Movements with significant numbers of incidents like this — whether representative or not — are simply much easier to dismiss.
UPDATE: Dana Loesch produces this 22-second video — from Media Matters, no less — in which no racial epithets are hurled at Lewis.
QED: No racial epithets were hurled at Lewis all day. (Also, it’s always bright and sunny in DC.)
Just to be safe, though, I see via Steve Benen that the RNC Chairman, the House Republican Leader, and Chairman of the House Republican conference have all denounced the alleged incidents as “reprehensible.”
Following reports yesterday that black and openly gay Democratic lawmakers were subjected to spitting and epithets from anti-health care reform protesters outside the Capitol, Republican leaders said Sunday that the incidents were “isolated” and “reprehensible.”
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) denounced the use of such slurs “in the strongest terms.”
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the “isolated incidents” were “reprehensible.”
Later on the same program, Michael Steele, the Republican National Committee’s first black chairman, agreed that the incidents were “reprehensible,” and added, “we do not support that.” “What you had out there yesterday were a handful of people who just got stupid and said some ignorant things,” Steele said.
So, at least the GOP leadership realizes that these slurs aren’t good for branding.