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Threats escalate against lawmakers over health care vote

By LAURIE KELLMAN and JIM ABRAMS
March 26, 2010

Rep. Louise Slaughter: A brick through her office window (AP)

A fax bearing the image of a noose. Profane voice mails. Bricks thrown, a gas line cut. White powder sent to an office.

Democrats and a few Republicans revealed mounting numbers and unsettling details of threats against them Thursday in the emotional aftermath of the passage of the health care overhaul.

Lawmakers uniformly condemned the harassment, but that’s where the agreement ended. Democrats said Republicans were slow to condemn the vigilantism, while Republicans said Democrats were playing politics with the threats.

“By ratcheting up the rhetoric, some will only inflame these situations to dangerous levels,” said House Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia. “Enough is enough. It has to stop.”

At least 10 Democrats now have reported harassment, including incidents involving at least four of their offices in New York, Arizona and Kansas. More frequent have been obscenity-laced, sometime-threatening phone messages. An undisclosed number of lawmakers have been given increased police protection.

“It is unfortunate that a small but vocal group of people are using insults to convey their opinions and alarming that anyone would make threats against me or my family,” said Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, D-Pa.

On Thursday, two Republicans said they, too, had been menaced.

No arrests have been reported. A threat to assault a member of Congress in retaliation for the performance of official duties is punishable by up to a year in prison.

House historian Fred Beuttler said there have been few acts of violence against lawmakers over legislation. The worst occurred in 1954 when four Puerto Rican nationalists shot up the House chamber, wounding five members. A cross was burned on Speaker Sam Rayburn’s front lawn in Texas during debate on civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

This week, hate-filled rants have been showing up in voice mails, e-mail boxes and on fax machines of lawmakers since the House approved the health care bill 219-212 Sunday night. President Barack Obama signed it into law on Tuesday. A package of fixes to the new law was winding through Congress Thursday on the brink of a two-week recess that begins on Monday.

On one point Thursday, there was bipartisan agreement: No act of Congress — health care reform or anything else — merits threats of violence against lawmakers or their families.

House Republican leader John Boehner met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the incidents and both condemned them.

Pelosi was careful to avoid blaming Republicans directly for inciting the harassment, though she said that words “weigh a ton.” Such threats of retaliation “have no place in a civil debate in our country,” she said.

Boehner followed moments later. While many are angry over the health care measure, he said, “threats and violence should not be part of a political debate.”

The fact that lawmakers were being harassed took attention away from the package of fixes to the health care law.

Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, released a recording of a voicemail she said she received in which a man repeatedly accuses Republicans of being racists.

Cantor, meanwhile, said he has received e-mail threats and that a bullet struck the window of his campaign office building in Richmond. But Richmond police said the bullet apparently had been randomly fired skyward. It hit the front window of a building that houses Cantor’s campaign office as it fell at a sharp downward angle around 1 a.m. Tuesday, police said.

Cantor said the House’s Democratic campaign chairman, Chris Van Hollen, and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine had incited retribution against Republicans by telling The Huffington Post that the GOP would “own” responsibility for retaliatory slurs.

Schmidt, meanwhile, released a tape of a profanity-laced phone message in which the caller said Republicans were racists and, referring to an accident two years ago when she was hit by a car while jogging, said, “You should have broke your back.”

Rep. Anthony Weiner’s office in the Queens borough of New York City received a letter with white powder in it Thursday that mentioned his vote for the health care bill, the police department said. Police later said field tests showed the powder was not hazardous.

In addition to Dahlkemper, Ohio Rep. John Boccieri, one of eight Democrats who switched to “yes” on the most recent House vote, said he had received threats.

E-mails sent to Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, D-Fla., another member who switched her vote, urged her to commit suicide and said she and her family should rot in hell.”

Rep. Louise Slaughter, a New York Democrat and chairwoman of an influential House committee, said someone had left her a voicemail that used the word “snipers.”

Some of the anger spilled over in a flood of threat-filled phone and fax messages to the office of Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich. Stupak had pledged to oppose the health care package unless given greater assurance that it would not allow federal funding of elective abortions. He voted in favor after the administration agreed.

“I hope you bleed … (get) cancer and die,” one caller told the congressman between curses.

A fax carried a picture of a gallows with “Bart (SS) Stupak” on it and a noose. It was captioned, “All Baby Killers come to unseemly ends Either by the hand of man or by the hand of God.”

Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., received a letter that also contained a shredded American flag. The letter contained expletives and said, “I will hound you. I will intimidate you and your family.”

Senate Sergeant at Arms Terry Gainer told The Associated Press Thursday that there was “no evidence that annoying, harassing or threatening telephone calls or e-mails are coordinated.”

___

Associated Press writers Bob Lewis and Dena Potter in Richmond, Va., Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Miss., David N. Goodman in Detroit, Ben Dobbin in Rochester, N.Y., Mark Carlson in Phoenix and Ann Sanner in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press

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24 Responses to Threats escalate against lawmakers over health care vote

  1. Bill Cravener

    March 26, 2010 at 7:04 am

    The Tea Party and all the other crazies know nothing of what it is to be a patriot. They paint up the president of the United States to look like Hitler. Hitler was an evil man that killed over 50 million people and tried to exterminate the entire Jewish race. The Tea Baggers and all the other crazies are nothing more then dumbasses hiding behind patriotism. The fact that they are willing to do this shows their complete lack of understanding of American sacrifice and it is an insult to all the service men and women who gave so much to defeat Adolf Hitler.

    It shows just how little the Tea Party crowd knows about history and how willing they are to ignore that history in order to further their own misdirected cause. If you listened to any of the Tea Party crowd speak in various interviews on the news channels then you had to be struck at the sheer stupidity of their answers to various questions.

    Talking heads such as Limbaugh and Beck are making a killing feeding this frenzied movement and power seeking individuals are seeing something they can latch onto to advance their careers.

    • Almandine

      March 26, 2010 at 7:57 pm

      Well Bluto, just what does it mean to be a patriot?

      Bush was painted up as Hitler… and the big O has sent Netanyahu back to Israel in tatters. Tell us more about the entire Jewish thing.

      The careers of Limbaugh and Beck are pretty much already made, so what are they angling for except advancing the cause of America, as they see it, which has nothing to do with the socialist model being foisted upon our “ever so rational” Dem populace. I think you’re lucky they haven’t found you here to debate.

      What is perfectly clear is that you’re of the most exalted collectivist mindset… not that it’s appropriate or worthy, only overblown. Then again, there’s not a collectivist argument to be made that’s worth hearing.

      So if you have more to say than calling people crazy or stupid, then put it out. Cause all you have said since your arrival is ad hominem bullshit that even my 12 year old nephew can poke holes thru.

      Are you being paid to spout this crap?

  2. Jim

    March 26, 2010 at 8:12 am

    Well, the right-wing talk show hosts, along with Fox , have accomplished their goal, they have inflammed the “ignorant red-necks”.

  3. Mightymo

    March 26, 2010 at 9:40 am

    I’d like to know what it is exactly that the Tea Baggers expect to change to. I mean, they want freedom and conservatism together, but my experience is that they don’t go together.
    Take a look at Utah for instance, very conservative state but you lose freedoms there unless you are a member of the church and believe that they aren’t lost.
    For instance, no open public swimming pools on Sundays. No baseball games on Monday afternoons (that’s bible reading time. No alchohol bought at the local store unless it’s 3%, only the state can sell you 6% or harder liquor. There are plenty of other “freedoms” that they like to enjoy there too, including Polygamy (they say they are against it, but they chose to turn a blind eye).
    I have serious reservations about what freedom under the Tea Baggers would bring us, certainly nothing I would enjoy.

  4. WayneKDolik

    March 26, 2010 at 10:03 am

    America has now become the Country that we broke away from. It is pure New World Order. Your government can issue it’s own warrants, without the approval of a Judge. Only in America can a citizen be incarcerated indeffinately.

    And some of wonder why folks are angry in this country. come on people get a clue. And now some republicans are upset. Where were you when our freedoms were stolen? You had 8 years under Bush to save this country.

    I am absolutly convinced that the 2 partys are otterly and completely nuts!

  5. woody188

    March 26, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    That’s funny, there’s no reference to any of this being a Tea Party organized effort in the article. In fact the article states there does not appear to be a coordinated effort. Which means these are average every day Americans that fed up with this false duopoly we call our system of government. Yet many posters attribute these threats to Tea Party members. Perhaps these posters would do well to look at their own bigoted views of the Tea Party movement before posting their opinions as fact. Or else others might call them crazy for inventing these “conspiracy theories” in their heads.

    Sucks when I turn it around like that doesn’t it haters?

  6. Odo

    March 26, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Das Teabaggers machten gebrauch von Kristallnacht :(

    • Mightymo

      March 26, 2010 at 3:33 pm

      You may be onto something, maybe someone looking in from the outside has a clearer vision of what is happening.

  7. griff

    March 26, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”

    The Cold War, the Communist threat, the terrorist threat, the threat of financial collapse if we don’t bail out the banks, global warming, etc…ad nauseum. The government is the number one fearmonger. It’s about damn time they tasted a little fear themselves.

    • Guardhouse lawyer

      March 29, 2010 at 9:11 am

      So you are condoning violence? For shame.

  8. Arthur

    March 26, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    You tell them, Griff. When the politicians go to office with the aforethought agenda of lying themselves into office and then thumbing their noses at the ones who elected them to their office, that is cold-blooded betrayal of their offices and their sacred oaths. One cannot reason with those of that sort of calibre, since they see themselves invincible even from fallout from swearing a premeditated false oath in vain. They have to be insane to think they can get away with it.

    Trouble is, with the One in whose name they lied through their traitorous teeth being the pragmatist who lets evil continue for a “season” (but then eventually… wipes them out… only to replace them)…

    My question is, “When is it the tyrants’ turn to shed some blood, Tom Jefferson???”

  9. Bill Cravener

    March 26, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    An overwhelming portion of the animosity toward President Obama by the Tea Party loonies is based solely on the fact that he is a black man. But when normal Americans get wind of what angry selfish rating whores like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage and Ann Coulter are saying they’re revolted and they blame the Republicans as they indeed should.

    The Republican Party has hitched its wagon to these wackos and hopefully conservatives of good conscience everywhere are waking up and realizing what has happened to their party. It’s political terrorism, reminiscent of al Queda-style politics. They lost a political battle so they’re trying to win that battle through threats, fear and vandalism.

    Things have gone way too far by the tea baggers. They must scale back their twisted rhetoric, if not there’s going to be a tragedy somewhere. There’s an element of the tea baggers who already think they can take the law into their own hands.

    They are nothing more then cowards!

    • Almandine

      March 26, 2010 at 8:04 pm

      There you go again with your “loonies, racist, wackos, tea baggers, twisted rhetoric, cowards”, bullshit Bluto. You have no interest in discourse, only trash talk.

      Your entire reputation here is worthless… go away.

      • Bill Cravener

        March 27, 2010 at 1:01 am

        Is that the best rebuttal you can come up with what’s you name? Please, find your way out and don’t let the door hit you in the arse.

        I’m going no where you silly handled person.

  10. Almandine

    March 27, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    It wasn’t rebuttal Bluto. There’s nothing worth wasting bytes on. Just more ad hominem crap.

    I asked for your “insight” above… an opening to show your intellectual stuff… an opportunity to wow us with your depth and breadth… but that seems to have been a little too much of a task.

    Perhaps instead of Bluto you’d prefer “The Craven One”?

    • Bill Cravener

      March 27, 2010 at 3:13 pm

      Depth and breadth is something you certainly lack what’s you name. Now come on, you can do better then that. I’m very disappointed, please try harder!

      • Almandine

        March 27, 2010 at 5:41 pm

        Quoth the raven…

  11. DJM

    March 27, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    I believe that a lot of people defending the “tea party” types seem to be under the illusion that there is some official membership requirement in spite of the fact that they call them[selves] a grass roots movement of angry individuals (obviously not many are independent of manipulation though) While I believe it is true that many people are angry with the political representatives who DON”T represent the people as well as they represent themselves and the already powerful corporation$ ….the type who have generally shown up at the “mad tea party” seem like a very specific TYPE ….those who soaked up the most radical right wing talking points and have little understanding of all the true and usually complicated facts. They are also apparently the ones most likely to become violent and react badly to what they perceive as losing “their” country. (a kind of solipsism)

  12. Almandine

    March 27, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    How does solipsism equate there, DJM?

    • Bill Cravener

      March 27, 2010 at 7:02 pm

      Tea Baggers = solipsism an extreme preoccupation with and indulgence of one’s feelings or in other words egoistic self-absorption, the theory or view that the self is the only reality or the habit of valuing everything only in reference to one’s personal interest. Well let me tell you something, the Tea Baggers reality is not my reality. Does that help explain it whats your name?

      • Webster

        March 28, 2010 at 7:33 am

        Solipsism is the philosophical idea that one’s own mind is all that exists.

        • Kent Shaw

          April 1, 2010 at 7:31 pm

          Webster
          March 28, 2010 – 7:33 am
          Solipsism is the philosophical idea that one’s own mind is all that exists.
          ____________________________
          Then how do I explain all the voices?

  13. John

    March 27, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Have any of the perps been identified by political party or group affiliation? I haven’t seen anything about it so I wonder how it can be assumed a particular group is responsible for the threats and acts. Also, from what I’ve taken from the news over the years, this isn’t the first time politicians have gotten threats, only that we have a lot of politicians making more ‘hay’ over it than they normally would, no doubt for political purposes or advantages.

    Obama’s approval rating is falling fast and Congress has historically had approval ratings in the 20% or lower ratings, and deservidly so, especially after this last mess. It would seem logical that there’s more than a small handful of Democrats/liberals who are just as unhappy with what’s going on in this country right now as there are Republicans/conservatives.

    If any of you pointing fingers at particular groups have any RELIABLE links to that information, post your sources so we can all have a look.

  14. Eve

    March 30, 2010 at 7:46 am

    Here’s a thought. Stop calling members of congress your “representatives.”
    They (by definition) would have to actually “represent” you in order to be given that distinction.

    Just a thought.