Rep. Scalise Refuses To Condemn Bigoted Slurs Directed At Members Of Congress

March 22, 2010 4:00 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

Since the Tea Party movement emerged last year, Republican lawmakers have touted the activists as true believers in freedom, while turning a blind eye to the racially charged elements of their demonstrations.  On Saturday, angry anti-health care protesters put on their ugliest display yet, spitting and shouting racist and homophobic slurs at House Democrats.    

While GOP leaders have denounced the protesters' behavior, some conservatives are actually putting a partisan spin on the episode.  For example, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) suggested Democrats caused people to "act crazy" by using "totalitarian tactics."

At the rally on Saturday, Media Matters Action spoke to Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), who also refused to condemn the abuse of his fellow congressmen.  Scalise claimed that the protesters were behaving "in a very civil way" and "just trying to defend the freedoms that we've got" in America.  Then, he seemed to suggest that Democrats deserved the wrath of the Tea Partiers.  "Speaker Pelosi called people like this names," Scalise said. "She called them un-American."

MMAN: Do you have any response to the fact that both Barney Frank and John Lewis have had epithets shouted at them today -- Barney Frank, a "f****t" and John Lewis, a "n****r"?

SCALISE: Well, I don't know who did that.  And, surely, if you look at the people that have been carrying themselves in a very civil way today, you've got American people that are proud of this country, that love and respect the Constitution, that are just trying to defend the freedoms that we've got here.  So, you know, I think if you look, they've been handling themselves well. Speaker Pelosi called people like this names. She called them un-American.  Those people are not un-American. 

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There's no excuse for the bigoted epithets directed at members of Congress or anyone else.  Nonetheless, it's worth mentioning that the Speaker never called Tea Partiers "un-American." Addressing town hall disruptions last summer, which were orchestrated to silence supporters of health care reform, Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer wrote that "drowning out opposing views is simply un-American."

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