This morning’s Washington Post contains a report summarizing the last minute political wrangling surrounding tonight’s vote on President Obama’s government takeover of healthcare. Protesters gathered in Washington, hoping against hope to have their voice heard by those servants elected to the Hill, were characterized thus:
Throughout the day, thousands of angry protesters milled outside the Capitol; some hurled insults at black and gay lawmakers and shouted at Democrats to “kill the bill!” Meanwhile, Obama made a final pitch for reform, exhorting wavering lawmakers to rise to the aid of millions of uninsured Americans by taking “the single most important step that we have taken on health care since Medicare” was created in 1965.
The Republican message was being received loud and clear outside the Capitol, where angry protesters gathered and waved placards that said “Defeat Obamacare” and “Born in the USA not the USSR.” Republicans were treated as heroes as they walked through the crowds, who patted them on the back and thanked them for their opposition. Democrats were greeted with jeers.
Black lawmakers said some protesters hurled racial epithets at them, and in one instance, spit upon them.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) said that he was walking into the Capitol to vote when a protester spat on him. Police quickly responded and detained the protester, Cleaver said in a statement, but the lawmaker declined to press charges.
“They were shouting the N-word,” Carson told reporters. “It was like a page out of a time machine.”
Observers also said that Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was heckled with anti-gay epithets inside the Longworth House Office Building.
“I have heard things today that I have not heard since March 15, 1960, when I was marching to get off the back of the bus,” said House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), the highest-ranking black official in Congress.
For those who are counting, that’s 287 words out of 1,223, nearly 1/4 of the article devoted to how protesters against Obamacare are racist homophobes. Conspicuously missing is any mention whatsoever of any substantive objection to the bill, as if folks traveled from across the nation to gather at their capital for the sole purpose of calling John Lewis the n-word. The other three-quarters of the article is naturally replete with quotations and summaries of Democratic rationale in favor of the bill.
This is an outrageous eleventh hour smear of the majority the public, who have made their position on health care reform abundantly clear in poll after poll. There is no indication of any attempt to follow-up with the accused protesters or obtain their side of the story. It is inconceivable that racial epitaphs represented a proportion of the day’s protest significant enough to exclude all other substantive reporting.
Cross-posted at Fightin Words, where comments are welcome.