Tea Partiers Heckle Dems With Racist, Homophobic Slurs

Flickr/<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewaliferis/3917088229/">andrew aliferis</a> (<a href="http://www.creativecommons.org">Creative Commons</a>).

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Tea Partiers protesting the health care bill in Washington hurled racist and homophobic epithets at two Democratic congressmen and spat on a black Democratic legislator prior to President Obama’s speech before House Dems on Saturday afternoon.

Rep. John Lewis was called “the N-word” when he was on the floor of the House earlier today by “a heckler from the Tea Party, a protester,” Kristie Greco, a press secretary for House Majority Whip James Clyburn, said this afternoon. Another protester spat at Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, another black Democrat, as he was walking from the Longsworth House building to attend Obama’s speech. In a separate incident, Rep. Barney Frank, who is openly gay, was called “faggot,” also as he was leaving the Longsworth building.

Clyburn, who spoke with Lewis after the incident, said that he outraged about the racist attacks on his colleagues. “I heard people saying things today I have not heard since March 15, 1960 when I was marching to try to get off the back of the bus,” he said. “This is incredible, this is shocking.” Tea Party leaders called their rally today “the last chance” to kill the health care bill, featuring speeches by Rep. Steve King, Mike Pence, and other Republican members of Congress.

Clyburn suggested, however, that he and his colleagues were not surprised that such racist sentiments were behind some of the public outrage against the Democratic health care bill.

“A lot of us have been saying for a long time that much of this is not about health care at all. And I think that a lot of people out there today demonstrated this,” Clyburn said at the Capitol Vistors Center after the speech, where protesters continued to shout “vote no” at the passing members of Congress. Rather, he explained, the protesters’ opposition was in reaction “to extend a basic fundamental right to people who are less powerful.”

When asked whether he felt apprehensive as a result of the racist attacks, Clyburn replied: “As I said to one heckler, I’m the hardest person in the world to intimidate.”

Update: Post was updated with confirmation of the spitting incident. Cleaver said that he would not press charges against the protester.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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