Last weekend, anti-health care protesters were out in force in Washington—and some of their behavior was deeply disturbing.
A crowd of tea partiers shouted the "n word" at Congressman John Lewis, a former civil rights leader who marched with Dr. King. They yelled homophobic epithets at Rep. Barney Frank, an openly gay congressman. And one protester actually spat on a Black member of Congress.1
Then this week, Democrats who voted for reform began receiving death threats—one had a coffin left on his lawn and another was told snipers would kill the children of lawmakers who voted yes.2 Several Democrats had their district offices vandalized, and a gas line was cut at a home that tea partiers mistakenly believed belonged to Rep. Tom Perriello.3
A few Republicans have spoken out against the racism and violence, but most are still treating them as "isolated incidents."4 They are not isolated. They’ve been part of Republican-supported tea parties for almost a year and they’re a natural consequence of telling people that reform is a totalitarian plot.5
It’s an outrage, and no American should tolerate it. So we’re joining with our friends at Color of Change to stand up to the hate. Can you add your name to this letter asking Republican leaders to unequivocally condemn bigotry, hate, and violence among their supporters?
The letter asks the leaders of the Republican party to do two simple things:
- Unequivocally condemn bigotry and hate among your supporters, and make clear that those who embrace it have no place in your party and that you reject their support.
- Make clear that you will not tolerate fear-mongering and coded appeals to racism from officials in the Republican Party, at any level.
Instead of calming the tea partiers’ anger, Republican members of Congress have stoked it. NBC reported that on Saturday, Reps. Mike Pence, Tom Price, and Michele Bachmann all addressed the tea partiers and that Bachmann stirred them "into a tizzy."6 Protesters from that rally then fanned out across Capitol Hill and were behind the assaults on Reps. Lewis, Frank, and Cleaver.7
Yesterday, Rep. John Boehner called the violence and threats "unacceptable."8 But just last week, he referred to fellow representative Steve Driehaus as "a dead man" if he voted for health care reform.9 And while Boehner’s office insisted his remark wasn’t meant to be taken literally, as Rep. Driehaus pointed out, "It doesn’t really matter the way you meant it, nor the way I accept it. It’s how the least sane person in my district accepts it."10
And there’s more: During the debate on the floor of the House on Sunday, Rep. Randy Neugebauer shouted "baby-killer" at Rep. Bart Stupak.11 And after the vote, Sarah Palin told supporters "Don’t Retreat—Reload," and then highlighted specific members of Congress she thinks are politically vulnerable using gun cross-hairs.12
The Tea Party movement has been marked by racially inflammatory and violent outbursts since its inception a year ago. And while most Republicans are probably disgusted by this behavior, the Republican Party and its leaders have repeatedly tolerated it at events they support.13But the hateful rhetoric and the tacit acceptance of "isolated incidents" of violence have gotten way out of hand.
Will you sign our letter to the leaders of the Republican Party telling them they must stop it now?
Thanks for all you do.
–Justin, Nita, Kat, Daniel, and the rest of the team
1. "’Tea party’ protesters accused of spitting on lawmaker, using slurs," The Washington Post, March 20, 2010
2. "FBI investigating threats to Democrats," The Associated Press, March 24, 2010
"Coffin placed on Carnahan’s lawn," Politico, March 25, 2010
"The backlash: Reform turns personal," Politico, March 24, 2010
3. "The Map So Far," Talking Points Memo, March 24, 2010
"Severed gas line found at home of Perriello brother," Charlottesville Daily Progress, March 24, 2010
4. "Steele: Slur-hurlers ‘idiots’," Politico, March 21, 2010
5. "Swastika painted outside Congressman’s office," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 11, 2009
"10 Most Offensive Tea Party Signs And Extensive Photo Coverage From Tax Day Protests," The Huffington Post, December 28, 2009
"Armed and Dangerous?" Talking Points Memo, August 11, 2009
"We have something to fear from fear-mongering itself," The Washington Post, March 24, 2010
6. "Tea Party Protest Scene," MSNBC, March 20, 2010
7. "’Tea party’ protesters accused of spitting on lawmaker, using slurs," The Washington Post, March 20, 2010
8. "Leadership decries threats to lawmakers in wake of health vote," The Hill, March 24, 2010
9. "Exclusive: House Minority John Boehner on the Health-Care Vote," National Review Online, March 18, 2010
10. "Amid Death Threats, Dem Rep Driehaus Points The Finger At GOP Leadership," Talking Points Memo, March 24, 2010
11. "’Baby killer outburst fuels Republican’s new funding ad," The Houston Chronicle, March 24, 2010
12. "Palin Uses Crosshairs To Identify Dems Who Voted For Health Care Reform," Talking Points Memo, March 24, 2010
13. "Tax Day Tea Parties Officially Endorsed By Republican Party," The Huffington Post, May 15, 2009
"Steele: I’d join the tea parties," Politico, January 5, 2010