Mar 25, 2010 5:54 PM by Letitia Walker
WASHINGTON (AP) - A fax bearing the image of a noose. Profane
voice mails. Bricks thrown, a gas line cut. White powder sent to an
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
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
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
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
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."
And in Virginia, someone cut a propane line leading to a grill
at the Charlottesville home of Rep. Tom Perriello's brother after
the address was posted online by activists angry about the health
care overhaul. Perriello also said a threatening letter was sent to
his brother's house.
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."