Republicans Denounce Violence, Charge Democrats as ‘Reckless’

Posted March 25, 2010 at 12:19pm

Updated: 4:08 p.m.

With Republican leaders on the defensive following a string of ugly and increasingly violent threats against Democratic lawmakers and their families, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) sought to turn the tables on Democratic leaders, saying someone shot a bullet into his campaign office and accusing Democrats of ginning up tensions on their end for political gain.

Some top Democrats have accused Republican leaders of failing to control their Conference, pointing to comments such as Rep. Randy Neugebauer’s (R-Texas) scream of “baby killer” Sunday night. They also have said Republicans were too slow to denounce threats and violent acts against Members and their families.

But Cantor said Republicans have also been threatened, and Democrats are making things worse by pointing fingers.

“A bullet was shot through my campaign office in Richmond this week, and I received threatening e-mails,” Cantor said.

“It is reckless to use these incidents as media vehicles for political gain. That is why I have deep concerns that some, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen [Md.] and DNC Chair Tim Kaine in particular, are dangerously fanning the flames by suggesting that these incidents be used as a political weapon. Security threats against Members of Congress [are] not a partisan issue, and they should never be treated that way. To use such threats as political weapons is reprehensible.”

Cantor said Republicans do not condone violence. “I’ve received threats since I assumed elective office not only because of my position but also because I am Jewish. I’ve never blamed anyone in this body for that, period. Any suggestion that a leader in this body would incite acts or threats against Members is akin to saying that I would endanger myself, my wife or my children.”

After three minutes, Cantor abruptly ended his press conference and left without taking questions.

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), who appeared in his own press conference just before Cantor, also condemned the threats and violence against Democratic Members but refused to take responsibility for how his party’s rhetoric may have contributed to the public rage over the health care reform bill.

“Listen, there have been a lot of words said in this political debate and many political debates in this institution over the last 220 years, but the fact is that this bill in my view is really going to harm our country,” Boehner said.

The day before the vote on the health care reform bill, Boehner told members of the Republican Conference that they were “about 24 hours from Armageddon.” During the Sunday debate, hundreds of protesters surrounded the Capitol to voice their feelings about the measure.

Boehner abruptly ended his press conference Thursday after a reporter asked if it was inappropriate to refer to a Democratic Member as a “dead man” politically in this charged environment.

Boehner told the National Review last week that Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) “may be a dead man” politically in his Congressional district if he voted in favor of the health care reform bill.

“I don’t think so,” Boehner said. “No one saw this quote of mine in this publication before Mr. Driehaus and others made a public issue out of it. Thank you.”

Van Hollen spokesman Doug Thornell said Cantor’s remarks were evidence that Republicans wanted to play politics instead of addressing the issue at hand.

“Today, Mr. Cantor had the opportunity to join Mr. Van Hollen in calling for restraint. Instead, he chose to use his press conference to level false accusations,” Thornell said. “This is straight out of the Republicans’ political playbook of deflecting responsibility and distracting attention away from a serious issue.”