No one thought passing health-care reform would be easy, but few imagined it would provoke a wave of what one senior Democratic congressman describes as domestic "terrorism." Since the House of Representatives passed the health-reform bill on March 22, a number of Democratic lawmakers — and two from the GOP — reported what appear to be violent threats, including shattered windows and a letter laced with mysterious powder. Though leaders of both parties have condemned the acts, Democrat Louise Slaughter (herself a target) says GOP leaders are egging on right-wing extremists with "coded rhetoric." Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich counters that Democrats have "enraged" the American people with their "corrupt tactics" and therefore bear some meaningful share of the responsibility for the rash of threats. Here's a summary of the major incidents reported to date:
The "assassination" plot against Tom Perriello (D-Va.)
What happened: Tea Party members posted the address of what they believed was Perriello's home on the Internet. The Charlottesville, Va., house actually belongs to the congressman's brother Bo, who reported to authorities that a propane line on his gas grill had been cut.
Aftermath: The apparent threat has been condemned from all sides. "When health-care reform is seen as literally a communist plot to destroy America,'" says liberal blogger Jeff Fecke in Alas, a Blog, "there will be people who decide that violence is a justifiable response." Jim Hoft in conservative Gateway Pundit agrees that targeting homes is dispicable — but wonders where all the media outrage was when "Marxist" protestors were "stalking" Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.
Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and the noose sketch
What happened: Stupak's last minute U-turn on health-care reform has provoked a string of death threats. A fax sent to his office reportedly showed a drawing of a noose with the words "All Baby Killers come to unseemly ends." (Listen to threatening messages left for Bart Stupak.)
Aftermath: In response to this and other incidents, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer, "Capitol Police are providing threat assessments and security recommendations for House members' district offices and family homes."
A bullet hits the office window of Eric Cantor (R-Va.)
What happened: Earlier this week, a bullet struck the window of a Cantor campaign office in Richmond, Va.
Aftermath: The congressman cited the incident as evidence that House Democrats are not alone in being targeted by protesters. He also condemned Democrats for cynically playing up incidents of violence as "media vehicles for political gain." However, left-leaning blog Daily Kos has criticized Cantor for his claims in light of Richmond police finding that the bullet "appears to have been fired randomly into the air."
A death threat against Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.)
What happened: A staunch opponent of the health-care bill, the Brooksville-area congresswoman reportedly received a voicemail this week saying, "Just wanna let you know I have 27 people that are going to make sure that this bitch does not live to see her next term. Good-bye."
Aftermath: White released a statement saying: "I will find the person who threatened to kill me and ensure that they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." Any threat to assault a member of Congress in retaliation for performing their official duties is punishable by up to a year in jail.
A coffin at the home of Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.)
What happened: Protestors participated in a prayer vigil outside the congressman's home, reportedly displaying a coffin either on the street or on his lawn.
Aftermath: Opinion is divided over whether this might have represented a threat. Carnahan says the protest was "disturbing," but the Tea Partiers who organised it say the coffin was used to stage a mock funeral for "future victims of abortion" — not to threaten the congressman. "There is nothing the Democratic-media complex will not do to lie about the Tea Party patriots," says participant Jim Hoft in Gateway Pundit.
A brick through the window of Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.)
What happened: Slaughter, a prominent supporter of the bill and Chair of the House Committee on Rules, had a brick thrown through the window of her Niagara Falls district office. She also received a threatening voicemail that referenced "snipers."
Aftermath: Slaughter says that federal authorities are investigating both acts.
Mysterious powder mailed to Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.)
What happened: The congressman says he received a letter railing against health reform in an envelope containing an unidentified white powder.
Aftermath: Hazmat teams raced to his Queens office and at least nine people were decontaminated — though New York police later said that the substance was a harmless antacid powder. Rep. Weiner suggested that Sarah Palin may have played a role in inciting the wave of threats: "When Sarah Palin uses gun analogies and gun imagery when she makes her political point, she may believe that she's engaging in metaphor," says Weiner, as quoted in CBS. "But there are too many people who have twisted minds who might think that she's being literal."
An ominous fax to Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.)
What happened: Clyburn — who says health-care protestors yelled racial slurs at him and fellow member of the Congressional Black Caucus — on the morning of the vote, had a picture of a noose faxed to his state office. His wife also received "threatening phone calls" in at the couple's home in Washington, D.C.
Aftermath: On MSNBC’s “Hardball” Clyburn said, "People are getting 'signals' from Republicans on how to behave — [and GOP] lawmakers need to 'disown' the activity before it gets out of control." Fox News host Glenn Beck countered that Clyburn and even Barack Obama are trying plant the politically irresponsible idea that there are "a bunch of crazy, radical, Tea Party, violent freaks ready to attack at any moment."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- The 10 best networking tips for people who hate networking
- Scottish independence is another financial crisis waiting to happen
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- Why the West should let Russia have eastern Ukraine
- 10 things you need to know today: September 1, 2014
- Your literary playlist: A guide to the music of Haruki Murakami
- Fall movie guide: All the films you should see in September
- Hey, grammar nerds! Stop freaking out about 'alot.'
- 11 scientific studies that will restore your faith in humanity
Subscribe to the Week